Deborah Schamoni

Mauerkircherstr. 186

D-81925 München

Wednesday – Friday 12 – 6 pm

Saturday 12 – 4 pm and by appointment

Yong Xiang LiPainting Unsettled

UCCA Edge, Shanghai, CN

11.03. – 21.05.2023

  • UCCA Edge presents the group exhibition “Painting Unsettled.” Bringing together eight artists from different generations and educational backgrounds, who work with different styles and techniques, the exhibition explores the possibilities offered by painting in the fractured information landscape of the present moment. Participating artists include Han Mengyun (b. 1989, Wuhan), Ce Jian (b. 1984, Shandong province), Li Ran (b. 1986, Hubei province), Yong Xiang Li (b. 1991, Changsha), Qiu Xiaofei (b. 1977, Harbin), Wang Xiaoqu (b. 1987, Guilin), Wang Zhibo (b. 1981, Zhejiang province), and Xie Nanxing (b. 1970, Chongqing). While the notion that photography would lead to painting’s obsolescence has long been disproven, new technologies and social changes are once again destabilizing the medium’s identity and questioning its relevance. In an age of parochial conservatism, incipient deglobalization, AI-generated art, and online echo bubbles, how is painting responding? “Painting Unsettled” presents viewers with an array of potential paths forward. Its artists stage interventions freely drawing upon different historical contexts and traditional techniques from around the world; engage with local contexts through the visual languages of modernity and contemporary life; and dive into their subconscious minds to depict hazy, half-remembered scenes. The exhibition is curated by UCCA Curator Luan Shixuan.   

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    Although all the artists in “Painting Unsettled” were born in China, many of them have lived, studied, or shown extensively overseas, granting an international perspective to their practices. This is especially true for the three artists whose work opens the exhibition on UCCA Edge’s second floor, all of whom are currently based in Europe, and reference myths and traditions from different regions in their pieces. […]

    The next two artists, Berlin-based Yong Xiang Li and London-based Han Mengyun, both draw upon traditional non-Western art in their pieces, yet respond to the legacy of Orientalism in different ways. Li takes a parodic approach: painting on furniture; swapping artisan-crafted wood for industrial materials that imply contemporary life’s constraints and gender roles; and, in Joy Granter (2019), imitating the appearance of a shrine while making its atmosphere more absurd than solemn. Han, on the other hand, highlights techniques and imagery from the art and handicrafts of South Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere, proposing a visual conversation in which European art history is still present, but not granted undue prominence. The diptych Death and Folly (2020), for example, depicts flower rubbings centered on a glass bead and skull, mixing symbols of impermanence from Western vanitas painting and Buddhist thangka painting. To borrow art historian David Joselit’s phrasing, in the work of these artists, “painting is beside itself”—engaged with its own materiality but also enmeshed in a cross-cultural network of motifs, crafts, technologies, and images.   


    “Painting Unsettled” posits that painting’s durability as a medium is precisely due to its ostensible instability—any new medium that threatens to replace it eventually becomes a new inspiration, shaping its style and subjects, if not necessarily the tools used to make it. As painting becomes a “meta-medium” capable of absorbing techniques from all others, its discourses have entered a new chapter, informed by a growing awareness of non-human subjectivities and intelligences. Gesturing towards these emerging concerns, the eight artists in “Painting Unsettled” mix traditions, high and low culture, and varied techniques and temporalities to break new ground. 

    Curated by Luan Shixuan
    Text: UCCA Center for Contemporary Art
    Image courtesy: UCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Yong Xiang Li
Chest & Bite, 2021
Acrylic, varnish, sand and painted door knobs on wooden panel
240 ⁠× ⁠100 ⁠× ⁠5 ⁠cm

Yong Xiang Li
Headpiece 头饰 2, 2023
Acrylic and varnish on UV print on gessoed MDF, glass beads, hinge, padlock and key
20 ⁠× ⁠112 ⁠cm

Yong Xiang Li
Daddy Lily, 2019
Acrylic and oil on panel, wood, wood stain, PVC, chain, accessory, eyelet
250 ⁠× ⁠120 ⁠× ⁠56 ⁠cm

Yong Xiang Li
Headpiece 头饰 1, 2023
Acrylic and varnish on UV print on gessoed MDF, glass beads, hinge, padlock and key
20 ⁠× ⁠112 ⁠cm