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Looking for _____

2024.04.13 - 2024.05.18

Artist: Ni Zhiqi, Manon Steyeart, Yu Aijun

We seem to have taken a step forward - we have passed the end of questions such as "What does art do?" and "What is the origin of the artwork?". But they can’t make the questions any less or even disappear. They are still there and they are wider, just as the shepherd who crosses the valley and finds a vast sea. On the one hand, this is the end for the sheep. However, on the other hand the richness of the sea is fresh. For artists, "Looking for _____" is a problem in itself, but also a passive, "resisting" action - especially when they are in a reality in which the diversity of values are being reined in, from opposing authority to perpetuating it, deconstructed and reassembled. Therefore, it is such important for artists to be vigilant, they should be difficult to be categorised, and try to avoid being the darlings of those who are at art fairs or high class parties - "Hey, she/he's popular and everyone needs one hanging in their bedroom or living room."

"My point is not that everything is bad but that everything is dangerous."


Art always emphasises the question of identity. Resistance arises when an artist wants to leave an honest mark on ambiguous and uncertain times - "to be modern is not to accept oneself as one is in the flux of the passing moments; it is to take oneself as object of a complex and difficult elaboration... Modern man, for Baudelaire, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is the man who tries to invent himself." From a narrower point of view, there are only two ways of constituting modern man's identity, apart from the one who endeavours to create himself, as mentioned above, the other is the one who has been willfully erased by society from its diversity, and who has progressively lost the ability to question it in generating a homogenised pretty face. 

"Looking for _____" as a practice can help artists anchor their identity. It should be emphasised that this process is not entirely random, it is a presentation of the artists' own ways of seeing. The four artists in the exhibition, who can hardly be categorised either in terms of cultural background or age, show a rare consistency - a search for ways to confront the reality of the times. 

Colour and material are particularly important modes of expression for Manon Steyaert and Ni Zhiqi, whose visual language, at once blunt and ambiguous, evokes the viewer's perception of spatial concepts and concrete images. Some of their works lie between painting and sculpture, and in resisting the process of traditional painting, they complete highly personal creations. It is worth mentioning that Ni Zhiqi's early collage works present a unique perspective, in which the memory of Sicily becomes the artist's "exclusive place" in time. Richard Dean Hughes also focuses on the relationship between object and image. In combining sculpture and painting, he explores traditional methods of production in relation to contemporary methods of cold production and materials. Self-defined as a conceptual artist who primarily uses painting as a medium, Yu Aijun's "painting as installation" seems to be in conceptual conflict with Hughes' complex sculptures (no need to draw a distinction here). There is a strong attempt at dialogue in his works, a murmur that can be heard with an ear to the ground - but that's about it, as Yu Aijun's small, hidden worlds of his brushwork, on paper and in poems, suggest the impossibility of dialogue. But this is not a bad thing, his creations are like old billboards on the street, or you could say unswept plastic bags in a park or rags locked up in a utility room, announcing their persistence in a disobedient way - "Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler".


The title of the exhibition "Looking for _____" is not artists’ quest for an exact answer, but in fact, for the viewer, it implies an orientated mode of viewing: there is no need to intentionally search for the deep meaning behind the works, but rather to overlap your own field of vision with that of the artists’, to look with the artists’ eyes, to think with the artists’ brain, and to practice with the artists’ hands - a childish experience of "what is the artist looking for". In this process, we may discover how realistic and confronting the artists’ works are, and how much it corresponds to/contrasts with our own experiences.

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