Picturing the human condition

Updated 2019-03-21 09:09:00

A work by Chinese artist Yu Hong, New Age, features in her solo exhibition running through May 5 at the Long Museum (West Bund) in Shanghai.

A new exhibition at the Long Museum offers an opportunity to view the world through the eyes of Yu Hong, one of China's most celebrated female artists.

Imagine this: you wake up and find yourself standing in front of a huge rock. There are others around you who have been trying to push the rock. Others are attempting to scale it. There are also those who, despite being atop the rock, are weary of the view they once desired so badly.

These struggles are what Yu Hong, one of the most celebrated female artists in China, tries to depict in her solo exhibition which opened on March 9 and runs through May 5 at the Long Museum (West Bund) in Shanghai.

Featuring 74 of Yu's works, the exhibition is the artist's largest single showcase, according to Wang Wei, general director of the museum.

"I thought I was already very familiar with Yu's art, but I was still stunned by the enormous energy she presents through the pieces in this show," says Wang, an ardent collector of the artist's works.

One of Yu Hong's works on show, Half-Hundred Mirrors No 16.

The exhibition's title The World of Saha means "the world to be endured". Yu said that it is a Buddhist expression, and of great importance on her journey of personal reflection, as it suggests that all those who suffer are prisoners of their own desires.

For Yu, The World of Saha also reflects human resilience and the urge to live despite adversity. In the exhibition, Yu reconstructs personal, societal and historical memories through the media of photography and painting, tracing the history of China's last 30 years.

Another exhibited work, Half-Hundred Mirrors No 9.

"As a painter, my job is to observe the world from a certain distance, even though I'm also part of the World of Saha," Yu says. "All the puzzles, distress and anxiety experienced in this world that I've observed permeates my work, through which you see a reflection of the world from my perspective."

For example, in the aforementioned painting of a rock and the people around it - derived from an ancient Chinese fable of an old man determined to move the mountains that blocked the path in front of his house - Yu tries to depict the daily struggles in life which "can be a chaos full of anxiety".

Painted on a canvas that measures about 9 meters wide by 5 meters high, the wall-mounted art piece immediately captures the attention of visitors due to its sheer size.

"It's like the reality you wake up to every morning," says Jerome Sans, curator of the exhibition. "You can't escape. You have a choice to make and then comes panic."

Old Man Yu Gong Is Still Moving Away Mountains.

It is to this effect that Sans, an art critic who has also served as artistic director for several influential art institutions around the world, has curated the exhibition. He said that his aim was to unfold Yu's 30-year artistic career like "a visual opera".

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