Space 2, 2009
Galerie Urs Meile Beijing is delighted to announce our second solo exhibition by Meng Huang. As a Chinese artist who spends part of his time in Berlin, Meng Huang has embedded his perspective on history, derived from his personal experiences, into the background of his unique artworks. He is primarily a painter, but he also works in other media, such as photography and installation. This exhibition will showcase several different series of paintings Meng Huang has completed in recent years. His unique grasp of hue and his choice of theme, which has a rather realistic flavor, mirror the artist’s reflection and analysis on the state of contemporary Chinese society.
Meng Huang started to work on his series Distance (2011-2013, oil on canvas, sizes ranging from 38 × 46 cm to 220 × 400 cm) in 2010. In his railway-themed paintings he explored his understanding of German culture, as well as his feelings about it. Meng Huang is able to express his notions of Germany through these images of railway tracks. These functional objects, especially their straight lines, bring forth his memories of childhood. As a child, he lived alongside a railway track; following the sleepers into the distance, he always imagined a happier place beyond the horizon. The implications of the railway itself, its abstract shape, and the feelings the artist has about life all mesh very well together, and thus the railway has become one of the key themes in Meng Huang’s artworks in recent years.
After many years of painting, Meng Huang has summarized his own works as a portrayal of space. Meng Huang has taken the depth of feeling emanating from the horizontal expanse and breadth of one of his earliest series of paintings, Paradise Lost (1997-2001, oil on canvas, sizes ranging from 80 × 92 cm to 200 × 280 cm), as well as from Distance, and refined it into horizontal and vertical axes that then become a subtle space. Space (2009, oil on canvas, 50 × 40 cm each), a series of small-scale oil paintings in bright colors—which the artist rarely uses—is concise and forceful, and it also reflects the artist’s exceptional control of color and expression.
While exploring the nature of painting and the nature of space, the real China has always been Meng Huang’s main concern. People (2011, oil on canvas, 220 x 400 cm) and Times Square (2011, oil on canvas, 180 × 280 cm) reel the viewer’s thoughts back to the real China. Meng Huang employs a bird’s eye view to portray the crowds of onlookers that can be seen in towns and villages all across China; they’re either playing cards, watching what’s going on, or just hanging out, doing nothing. He then employs the opposite perspective, looking up from below to depict the flagstone paths that can be seen all over Europe, rendering the scene both preposterous and deeply meaningful. Meng Huang uses white to separate the human figures from the background, expressing the traces and mottled nature of time. Likewise, he depicts the rubble and construction sites that have appeared as a result of the rapid development of Chinese cities. With a fair amount of irony, he named this work Times Square. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see his rarely shown series of landscapes, Distant Mountain (2008-2012, oil on canvas, sizes ranging from 38 × 46 cm to 95 × 150 cm).
In addition to oil paintings, Meng Huang has also accomplished a series of charcoal drawings. He has always been interested in objects with ambiguous features, and charcoal makes him express these uncertainties more freely and appropriately. Clouds and water are themes that he often deals with (for example, Clouds 2 (2013, charcoal on paper, 77 × 109 cm)). Depicting clouds in the far distance overhead and water flowing freely underfoot, he uses the railway tracks to constitute space. Last but not least, the vagaries of clouds fit well with the wandering life of the artist.
Meng Huang was born in Beijing in 1966, and now divides his time between Beijing and Berlin. His works have been exhibited in galleries and art institutions all over the world. His major solo exhibitions include I and We in 2012 at Galerie Urs Meile, Lucerne; Five Faces of a Man in 2010 at Berlin’s WiE Kultur; and And What Do You Think? Landscapes in 2008 at Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing. His major group exhibitions include CAPITAL-Merchants in Venice and Amsterdam in 2012 at the Swiss National Museum, Zurich, Switzerland; Weltsichten at the Museum Wiesbaden and Kunsthalle zu Kiel in Germany; and Mahjong – Chinesische Gegenwartskunst aus der Sammlung Sigg, in 2006 at Germany’s Hamburger Kunsthalle.
untitled #70-013, 2012
Christian Schoeler’s second exhibition at Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing focuses on his works on paper. Besides his large canvases, executed in a mixed media technique and oils, he also creates smaller, more intimate works on hand-made paper. Here he mixes drawing and printing techniques with watercolors or pastels instead of oil paint. They are different from the oil paintings because this technique is faster, and Schoeler has to construct his images in reverse, starting with the highlights and moving on to the darker shades of the image, since the light comes from the paper when less opaque color is used. The order and layers of the several techniques differ from piece to piece, and in the end even experts cannot distinguish between them.
Although they are reminiscent of classic portraits, Schoeler’s works are not. The artist once said, “It’s about beautiful paintings, not about beautiful boys.” So, if the work has a name in its title, it might differ from the model’s real name. Christian Schoeler arranges photo shoots with models or friends, as he did, for example, for the Solomon Series (Solomon, 2011, mixed media and pastel on handmade paper, 90 × 60 cm; untitled #071 (Solomon), 2011, mixed media and pastel on handmade paper, 85 × 61 cm; untitled #072 (Solomon), 2011, mixed media and pastel on handmade paper, 93 × 61 cm). Debating the issue of whether it is legitimate to use printing techniques and photography in painting is obsolete, because all famous painters have employed the technical means available in their times. Born in 1978 in Hagen, Germany, Christian Schoeler stages photographs and uses the images as starting points for new works. However, he is not interested in staying true to the actual appearance of the person depicted. Other works on paper are based on a combination of photographs he has found or made himself. He takes the scenery from one photograph and a person from another and combines them together in “a miniature of an alternative reality.”
Schoeler appropriately describes his studio as a laboratory, a place where things are being transformed and experiments are conducted. In his laboratory he converts his models into androgynous, apparitional figures. Schoeler doesn’t paint their bodies; he paints his idealized impression of them. Their indefiniteness makes his drawings function as a mirror for the artist’s emotions. Sometimes, when looking at older paintings he has done, Schoeler wonders why he exposed so much of himself in a work. The people in his works are like ethereal doubles, and Schoeler deals with his own vulnerability when creating them. As a result, we see transcendent beings emerging from a mist; ghostly youngsters, inseparable from back- or foreground, introverted figures that define the space around them and are at the same time absorbed by it.
The title of the exhibition, I wanna be ignored ..., could be read as a statement made by one of these too-beautiful human beings as he disappears into the haze, but it was actually made by the artist. It is strikingly unusual. If the artist wants to be ignored, then why exhibit? Isn’t the purpose of an exhibition to be seen? But this title is not a classic one, meant to be a headline above a selection of works, or a message to visitors. It is an intimate and personal statement. Over the last year Christian Schoeler had the most humbling experience a human being can have: being seriously ill. He suffered from an ischemic cerebral infarction. The self-deprecating title expresses his wish that—now that he feels better and is more like himself again—his friends would worry less about him and not anxiously monitor all his body functions anymore. Furthermore, it reflects his modesty, a mindset one automatically adopts when one is confronted with nerve-wracking trials and has no chance to exercise influence. As the artist is currently on the road to recovery, all of the works in the exhibition date from before July 2013, but many of them are being exhibited for the first time. It was important for Galerie Urs Meile to show Christian Schoeler’s work at this point, and we are looking forward to seeing more of him in the future.
National Stadium No. 5
Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to announce the opening of Ai Weiwei’s fifth exhibition at our gallery in Lucerne. The first work immediately confronts the visitor with that aspect of the Ai Weiwei phenomenon, which even people who are not interested in art are familiar with, thanks to countless media reports: the political activist who is not allowed to leave China. Surveillance Camera (2010, 8/14, marble, 39.2 × 39.8 × 19 cm, edition of 14) is a marble replica of one of the cameras outside of Ai Weiwei’s studio in Beijing. But actually everybody is able to follow Ai Weiwei wherever he went, or see whom he met and what he ate without the help of surveillance cameras, since Ai Weiwei takes many photographs and publishes them online on Instagram. Of course, the artist selects what he will share, but he definitely has an easy way of handling his privacy. Ai Weiwei once said, «I realize that being an artist after Duchamp is more about lifestyle and attitude than producing some sort of product . . . a way of looking at things.» Many of his photographs represent this idea, and show his view of the world. His early New York Photographs (1983-1993) were already focusing on Ai Weiwei, his friends, and the art scene in New York’s East Village. And even in highly dramatic situations, Ai Weiwei doesn’t forget to capture the moment. The famous photograph Illumination (2009, digital lambda print, 126 × 168 cm (mounted), edition of 40) was taken during his arrest on August 12, 2009, at the Anyi Hotel in Chendgu, China. Ai Weiwei was assaulted and kept from testifying at the trial of his friend, the activist Tan Zuoren, who was accused of inciting subversion of state power, because he had investigated the Sichuan school corruption scandal and tried to set up a database of earthquake victims. Due to their inadequate construction, many schools in Sichuan collapsed and five thousand students lost their lives.
Ai Weiwei knows that he challenges the independence of art by making it political, by using it as a tool to convey information. As a matter of course, though, the question of form is of equal interest to him. His aesthetic sense can be seen in the series Sugar Pills (2013, huali wood, 162 × 154 × 100 cm, 97 × 86 × 60 cm, 63 × 108 × 102 cm, 134 × 86 × 74 cm). Their outlines are random, and their original shapes come from wooden blocks cut from scrap wood by carpenters in Ai Weiwei’s studio, who used them to practice their craft. They employ a classic Ming furniture-making technique, without the use of screws or nails. Although related to Ai Weiwei’s earlier series, titled Divina Proportione (2010), they are unlike the earlier work, as they are not based on geometry and mathematical precision. The form of the Sugar Pill is not logical, but it has a strong sense of design and structure, as well as volume and an element of architecture.
This becomes even more visible when they are seen next to National Stadium (2005–2007, digital lambda print, set of 10; 91 × 111 cm each (framed), edition of 20 + 2AP). This is a series of ten photographs featuring the different phases of construction of the Beijing Olympic Stadium. The so-called Bird’s Nest was designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron for the 2008 Olympic Summer Games, and Ai Weiwei served as artistic advisor and cultural translator for the design. The architects added extra, random-looking pieces of steel so that the supports would blend into the rest of the stadium. This harmony between randomness and design can also be seen in the Sugar Pills. Ai Weiwei documented the construction from the foundation trench to the finished building, sometimes over a period of twenty-four hours, and took great care to construct his images meticulously.
Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing, China, where he also lives and works today. A selection of his most recent exhibitions includes: Ai Weiwei @ large, Alcatraz, San Francisco, USA; Ai Weiwei - Evidence, Martin- Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany; and Ai Weiwei: According to What?, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, USA, all in 2014. In 2013 he exhibited in the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennial, and in 2007 he realized his project Fairytale for Documenta XII, in which he invited 1001 Chinese people to spend a week in Kassel, Germany.
Galerie Urs Meile freut sich, die fünfte Ausstellung von Ai Weiwei in der Luzerner Galerie anzukündigen. Mit dem ersten Werk ist der Besucher direkt mit dem Aspekt des Phänomens Ai Weiwei konfrontiert, den jeder aus den Medien kennt, auch wenn man sich nicht für Kunst interessiert: dem politischen Aktivisten, der China nicht verlassen darf. Surveillance Camera (2010, 8/14, Marmor, 39.2 × 39.8 × 19 cm, Edition von 14) ist die Marmorkopie einer der Kameras, die vor Ai Weiweis Studio in Beijing installiert sind. Dabei kann jeder auch ohne Überwachungskameras sehen, wohin Ai Weiwei geht, wen er trifft und was er isst. Denn Ai Weiwei macht jeden Tag zahlreiche Fotos und stellt sie auf Instagram online. Natürlich wählt er aus, was er preisgibt, sein Umgang mit seiner Privatsphäre ist aber durchaus locker. In einem Interview sagte er einmal: «Nachdem ich Duchamps Werk gesehen habe, habe ich verstanden, was es bedeutet ein Künstler zu sein, dass es dabei mehr um den Lebensstil und die Haltung geht, als darum ein Produkt zu produzieren ... es ist eine Art, die Dinge zu sehen.» Viele seiner Fotografien spiegeln diese Einstellung. Sie veranschaulichen Ai Weiweis Art, die Dinge zu sehen. Bereits seine frühe Fotoserie New York Photographs (1983-1993) zeigte vor allem ihn, seine Freunde und die Kunstszene des East Village. Und auch in dramatischen Situationen vergisst Ai Weiwei nicht, den Moment mit der Kamera festzuhalten. Die mittlerweile berühmte Fotografie Illumination (2009, digitaler Lambda Print, 126 × 168 cm (aufgezogen), Edition von 40) entstand während seiner Verhaftung am 12. August 2009 im Anyi Hotel in Chendgu, China. Ai Weiwei wurde verletzt und davon abgehalten, am Prozess seines Freundes und Aktivisten Tan Zuoren auszusagen. Dieser war angeklagt, staatsgefährdendes Verhalten anzustiften, da er den Schulgebäude-Korruptions-Skandal in Sichuan untersucht und eine Datenbank mit den Erdbebenopfern eingerichtet hatte. Durch ihre unsachgemässe Bauweise waren viele Schulen eingestürzt und 5000 Schüler umgekommen.
Ai Weiwei weiss, dass er die Unabhängigkeit der Kunst herausfordert, wenn er sie zu einem politischen Werkzeug macht und Kunst ist für ihn weit mehr als ein Kommunikationsmedium. Die formale Seite interessiert ihn selbstredend ebenso sehr. Ein Beispiel für seinen Sinn für Ästhetik ist die Serie Sugar Pills (2013, Huali Holz, 162 × 154 × 100 cm, 97 × 86 × 60 cm, 63 × 108 × 102 cm, 134 × 86 × 74 cm). Die Entstehung der Grundform ist zufällig. Sie stammt von Holzresten, an denen die Tischler von Ai Weiweis Studio ihr Handwerk übten. Die einzelne Sugar Pill ist in der traditionellen Ming Technik gefertigt, die ohne den Einsatz von Schrauben oder Nägeln auskommt. Die Arbeiten sind mit der früheren Werkserie Divina Proportione (2010) verwandt, basieren im Gegensatz dazu aber nicht auf Geometrie und mathematischer Präzision. Die Form der Sugar Pills beruht nicht auf Logik, sondern auf einem ausgeprägten Sinn von Design, Architektur und Volumen.
Dies wird augenscheinlich, wenn man sie neben National Stadium (2005 – 2007, digitaler Lambda Print, Set von 10, jedes 91 × 111 cm (gerahmt), Edition von 20 + 2AP) sieht, einer Serie von Fotografien, die die unterschiedlichen Bauphasen des Olympia Stadiums von Beijing zeigen. Das sogenannte Bird’s Nest wurde für die Sommerspiele 2008 von den Schweizer Architekten Herzog & De Meuron entworfen und Ai Weiwei wirkte bei dem Projekt als künstlerischer Berater und kultureller Übersetzer bei der Formgebung. Die Stützstruktur wurde durch das Hinzufügen zufällig scheinender Stahlträger versteckt und diese Mischung aus Zufall und Design spiegelt sich auch in den Sugar Pills wider. Ai Weiwei dokumentierte die Entstehung des Stadiums akribisch, manchmal über einen Zeitraum von 24 Stunden, und konstruierte die Fotos genau.
Ai Weiwei wurde 1957 in Beijing, China geboren, wo er auch heute lebt und arbeitet. Eine Auswahl seiner jüngsten Ausstellungen beinhaltet: Ai Weiwei @ large, Alcatraz, San Francisco, USA; Ai Weiwei - Evidence, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Deutschland und Ai Weiwei: According to What?, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, USA, alle 2014. 2013 stellte er an der Biennale von Venedig im Deutschen Pavillon aus und 2007 realisierte er an der Documenta XII das Projekt Fairytale, für das er 1001 Chinesen für eine Woche nach Kassel einlud.