Xia Xiaowan

Julia Steiner
"deep voice – clear sky
净空 - 深声"

September 6 - October 19, 2014
Opening: Saturday, September 6, 2014; 4 - 7pm

Xia Xiaowan

Sketch-Leonardo da Vinci No. 2, 2013

special pencil, 24 tinted glass panels,
each 6 mm thick
60.5 x 40.8 cm (glass), 66.5 x 44 x 42 cm (framed)

Xia Xiaowan

2014 (english)

Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to announce the opening of a solo exhibition by Xia Xiaowan. While viewers might be familiar with his earlier glass works, in this exhibition these three-dimensional works are juxtaposed with related sketches, revealing the artists exploration and understanding of process in painting. In his earlier artistic practice, Xia Xiaowan primarily produced pencil drawings on paper. But in order to establish a more close relationship between the works and the exhibition space, and drawing on concepts developed in his earlier paintings on glass panels, Xia began in 2003 the transition from two-dimensional drawing to three-dimensional painting. These glass works, with their stereoscopic optics, broke the boundaries of two-dimensional paintings and created a strong sense of physical mass that was at the same time empty and ambiguous. The exhibition presents a selection of four representative three-dimensional works, shown together with sketches related to his artistic process, to provide the viewer with a means of understanding his transition from a traditional painting form to a three-dimensional object.

In the center of the gallery space, a glass piece combines representations of Jesus and Buddha that relate to Xia Xiaowan’s earlier statue series. In terms of visual effect, the artist humorously conflates the supreme beings of the Western and Eastern worlds into one; in terms of the cultural connotations, it reflects the essence and differences between two cultures. In addition, based on the existent images, the artist continues to create a variety of figures, which are also included in the exhibition.
The human body has been an artistic research interest in Xia Xiaowan’s work for a long time, and it is taken up again in Two Persons in Water (2012, special pencil, 26 tinted glass panels, each 6 mm thick, 60.5 x 82 cm (glass), 67.8 x 51 x 83.5 cm (framed)). By referring to the works on paper, the audience can appreciate the efforts made by the artist in exploring form; he achieves the effect of “being like something and yet not being that thing you’re like,” and finds the point between the true and the untrue. Superimposing or layering a series of sketches is a formal strategy used by Xia Xiaowan. In the two-dimensional works there is already a sense of layering present, while the three-dimensional works bring this into full play. In one of the pieces, the artist combines multi-layered beards with handwritten manuscripts by Leonardo da Vinci, bringing together complex elements that explore the possibilities in creating shape.

In addition to the human body, landscape is another key theme in the artist’s work. Xia Xiaowan explores the topic of space in these landscape paintings, creating a dialogue that transcends time and space with the classics of Chinese traditional art. In the exhibition, we deconstruct the piece Chinese Ancient Landscape of Fan Kuan Linliuduzuotu (2014, special pencil, 20 tinted glass panels, each 6 mm thick, 81.5 x 57.5 cm (glass), 88 x 59 x 47 cm (framed)) showing the glass panels one by one, and provide an opportunity for the audience to observe the three-dimensional work’s components in isolation.

Born in Beijing in 1959, Xia Xiaowan currently lives and works in Beijing. His works have been exhibited all over the world. Main solo exhibitions include Transmutations across the Space – XIA XIAOWAN Solo Exhibition at MOCA@Loewen in Singapore in 2012; Xia Xiaowan – Three Dimensional at Galerie Urs Meile Lucerne Gallery in 2010; and How do You See with Your Mind & Body? Xia Xiaowan’s Works on Paper at the Today Art Museum in 2003. Recent group exhibitions include Face Art Exhibition at the Minsheng Museum in Shanghai in 2012; and Reshaping History – China from 2000 to 2009 at the China National Convention Center (CNCC) in Beijing, China in 2010.


Julia Steiner

untitled, 2014

gouache on paper,
205 x 240 cm

Julia Steiner

2014 (english)

Carol Yinghua Lu on the occasion of Julia Steiner’s solo exhibition deep voice – clear sky 净空 – 深声 at Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing:
Basel-based Swiss artist Julia Steiner might yet to become a familiar name to many of us in the Chinese art world, but she is no stranger to China. She has spent extensive time and energy traveling and working in China, through two artist-residency stays in Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing. What brought her to China in the first place was the fact that when she started out making works on paper and showing her gouache paintings back home in Switzerland, one of the most common responses she received was that many in Europe thought she was influenced by Chinese traditional paintings. It was then that she began reading about Taoism and learning about Taoist thoughts through the works of Laozi and Zhuangzi. As she read more, she made a decision to come to China and to see it for herself.

Composing a painting or an installation through collaging and by responding intuitively, sensually and aesthetically to physical conditions and atmospheric surroundings of a space has been a systematic approach in Steiner’s practice. The paper she paints on and the process of making each painting are the connected-links between how she witnesses and experiences a space or a condition and how she articulates such an experience. She drew situations, persons, fragments of situations, sights and scenes. The process of working through a painting is a process of recalling and conveying a personal immersion in a situation, be it darkness or an empty space. As the artist describes it herself, it is as if taking a walk through a painting.

In the early paintings she made around 2005, what emerged as motifs were usually a mixture of things: observations, noise she heard, scenes she witnessed, sentences she heard or read, atmosphere she felt in a space. These were inspirations she would start with and she would then try to find an image for their materialization on paper. It was usually not a clear idea of the actual image, but more of a feeling of what the image was and how it should look like. These images in her work were more imaginary than factual, yet firmly based on the reality as she experienced it. Instead of portraying birds fluttering around in the space, resting on a tree or horses running, literally as they appear, what Julia Steiner sets out to do in her painting is to make apparent the experience as such.

Until now, Steiner always works in black and white. In her paintings, the majority of which are done in large scale, whiteness is almost always more expressive and outstanding than blackness and is nearly inevitably the first thing that catches one’s eyes. In a way, Steiner is sculpting space and void in her works, a process motivated by her experience and memory of the reality, her personal reality, to be precise, paths she takes, places she visits, sound she hears and scenes she witnesses. It’s both personal and original. She does not take references from theoretical writings or precedents from art histories. I asked Steiner if having being in China a number of times, doing research and making works, had she come to agree with any of the resemblance and connection people back home talked about between her paintings and Chinese paintings. She told me that in fact shortly after arriving in China, she knew that such a generalization about Chinese paintings and the formal comparison between hers and Chinese traditional cultures were just irrelevant.

In the exhibition at Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing during the installation process, Julia Steiner has brought in 3500 kg of wet clay to the gallery space and worked on them for seven days on a wood base, measured at 3.20 m wide and 4.10 m long with a height of 28 cm, built especially to hoist this sculptural being. She also made a painting on the walls of the exhibition space, framing the sculptural work. Like her paintings, the clay work requires the artist to be with it, spending time observing, molding, feeling and making it, taking some distance from it and returning to it. After a two-week breathing period, the artist will cover it with black glossy acrylic paint. This enormous and abstract clay landscape will continue to dry during the time being of the exhibition and will crack, change form and become a living presence in the space. This new direction of working with clay does offer a more corporal feeling, the experience of the density and the energy of the artist’s movement in full dimensions and from all angels.


Li Gang
"Salt Road"

August 21 - November 1, 2014
Opening: Thursday, August 21, 2014; 6 - 8pm

Li Gang

Description, 2014
oil on hand-made canvas
162 x 182 cm


2014 (english)

Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to announce the opening of Salt Road, the second solo exhibition by Li Gang (*1986 in Dali, Yunnan Province, lives and works in Beijing, China) at our Lucerne gallery. Li Gang studied painting, but went on to experiment with a wide range of media and materials. He wants his art to stay fresh and committing to only one medium would limit him too much. With Li Gang you never know which form his next group of works will take on. His art has no recognizable style, the common ground lies deeper: in Li Gang’s interest in transformation. This concern encompasses both: his own growth as an artist and the transformation of ordinary objects into art works. His aim is to create art, which is more than just a reproduction or copy of reality, and he challenges himself with all kinds of unusual materials: dead trees, waste from exhaust emissions, cement, stones and hemp string.

Often the choice of material is significant as in the work The End - 2013.12 (2014, waste materials from exhaust pipes of cars and water, five bars of ink, each 1.2 × 2.2 × 11.5 cm). Li Gang altered the production process of Chinese ink, which is traditionally made out of soot collected over burning pine wood and mixed with glue. Li Gang used the waste materials from car fumes instead to create a toxic, but actually useable set of ink bars.

Also for the third version of this series, Beads No. 3 (2013, wooden spheres, shaped from the connecting points of a dead tree from Yunnan Province, 504 pcs., ø 0.8 - ø 78 cm) the choice of material is relevant. Li Gang had 504 wooden spheres shaped from the parts of a dead tree, where the branches connect to the trunk, the roots divide and the boughs bifurcate. He did choose this part of the tree because it represents to him the origin of something new, the core of a fresh endeavor and the beginning of an emerging connection to the world. To him a tree is like a person’s life and relationships. Life is not linear, we grow and we connect, we explore new paths, it is a constant trial and error, a constant reaching out and retrieving.

Another group of works is also based on the idea of connecting: Alienation (2013, stones and glue, 200 × 60 x 50 cm), Vertical (2014, stones and glue, 181 × 21 × 21 cm), Forgiving (2014, stones and glue, 70 × 68 × 14 cm), Not Wrong (2014, stones and glue, 49 × 62 × 12 cm), 1st May (2014, stones and glue, 71 × 53 × 9 cm). Li Gang joins large pebble stones with glue, which he uses like modeling clay, creating a shape that harmoniously connects the different ridges of the stones. Herewith the artist makes hidden connections of seemingly unrelated objects visible and combines them in hanging sculptures or objects that are reminiscent of frames.

Li Gang’s paintings are situated between figuration and abstraction (Mid-February (2014, oil on hand-made canvas, 123 × 122 cm), Ornamental Carp (2014, oil on hand-made canvas, 162 × 178 cm), Description (2014, oil on hand-made canvas, 162 × 182 cm), Painting the Sky (2014, oil on hand-made canvas, 166 × 186 cm) and March (2014, oil on hand-made canvas, 107 × 102 cm)). The canvases are made of handmade hemp string and were produced in Li Gang’s hometown in Yunnan province. Their subjects are enlarged details of famous masterpieces or of his own sketches. Depending on the light conditions the structure of the canvas and the shiny oil color develop their own pattern, which breaks the depiction and transforms
the painting into an object.

Li Gang was born 1986 in Dali in Yunnan Province in China and studied oil painting at Yunnan Dali Academy in Dali, China and art at the Department of Experimental Art of Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China. More works from the series’ exhibited in Lucerne will be shown at Palais de Tokyo in Paris from October 20, 2014 as part of the group exhibition Inside China.


2014 (deutsch)

Galerie Urs Meile freut sich, die Eröffnung von Salt Road, Li Gangs zweiter Einzelausstellung in der Luzerner Galerie, anzukündigen. Li Gang (*1986 in Dali, Yunnan Provinz, lebt und arbeitet in Beijing, China) studierte Malerei, arbeitet heute aber in einer Vielzahl von Medien und Materialien. Denn er will, dass seine Kunst frisch bleibt und die Festlegung auf eine Kunstgattung würde ihn zu sehr einschränken. Bei Li Gang weiss man nie, welche Form seine nächste Werkgruppe annehmen wird. Seine Arbeiten haben keinen identifizierbaren Stil, ihre Gemeinsamkeit liegt tiefer, in Li Gangs Interesse an Transformation. Und damit ist ebenso seine eigene Entwicklung als Künstler gemeint, wie die Transformation von Alltagsmaterialien in Kunstwerke. Sein Ziel ist es, Kunst zu kreieren, die mehr ist als eine Kopie oder Reproduktion der Realität, und er fordert sich selbst mit allen Arten von ungewöhnlichen Werkstoffen heraus: toten Bäumen, Schlacke von Autoabgasen, Zement, Kieselsteinen oder Hanfseilen.

Oft ist die Wahl des Materials von Bedeutung, wie etwa bei der Arbeit The End - 2013.12 (2014, fünf Blöcke Tinte aus Schlacke von Autoabgasen, Wasser, jeder 1.2 × 2.2 × 11.5 cm). Hierfür modifizierte Li Gang den Herstellungsprozess von chinesischer Tinte, die traditionell aus Russ erzeugt wird, der über einem Feuer aus Pinienholz aufgefangen und mit einem Klebstoff vermischt wird. Li Gang verwendet hingegen die Ablagerung von Autoabgasen, um ein verwendbares, aber toxisches Set von Tintenblöcken herzustellen.

Auch für die dritte Arbeit der Serie Beads No. 3 (2013, hölzerne Kugeln aus den Verzweigungeneines toten Baumes aus der Yunnan Provinz, 504 Stück, ø 0.8 - ø 78 cm) ist die Wahl des Materials signifikant. Li Gang liess 504 Kugeln aus den Teilen eines toten Baumes produzieren, an denen ein Ast aus dem Stamm wächst, eine Wurzel sich teilt oder ein Zweig sich gabelt. Er wählte diesen Teil des Baumes, da er für ihn den Beginn von etwas Unbekanntem, den Ursprung eines jungen Vorhabens und den Anfang von einer neuen Verbindung zur Welt darstellt. Im Baum sieht er ein Symbol für das menschliche Leben und dessen Beziehungen. Das Leben ist nicht linear, wir wachsen und verbinden uns, wir erkunden neue Wege, es ist ein konstantes Ausprobieren, Ausgreifen und Zurückziehen.

Auch eine andere Gruppe von Werken basiert auf der Idee der Verbindung: Alienation (2013, Steine und Kitt, 200 × 60 × 50 cm), Vertical (2014, Steine und Kitt, 181 × 21 × 21 cm), Forgiving (2014, Steine und Kitt, 70 × 68 × 14 cm), Not Wrong (2014, Steine und Kitt, 49 × 62 × 12 cm), 1st May (2014, Steine und Kitt, 71 × 53 × 9 cm). Li Gang fügt grosse Kieselsteine mit Hilfe von Kitt, den er wie Modelierton braucht, so zusammen, dass er eine Form kreiert, die harmonisch die Kanten der unterschiedlichen Steine berücksichtigt und verbindet. Der Künstler macht so die verborgene Beziehung zwischen scheinbar unverwandten Objekten sichtbar und vereint sie zu hängenden Skulpturen oder zu Objekten, die an Rahmen erinnern.

Li Gangs malerisches Werk (Mid-February (2014, Öl auf handgemachter Leinwand, 123 × 122 cm), Ornamental Carp (2014, Öl auf handgemachter Leinwand, 162 × 178 cm), Description (2014, Öl auf handgemachter Leinwand, 162 × 182 cm), Painting the Sky (2014, Öl auf handgemachter Leinwand, 166 × 186 cm) und March (2014, Öl auf handgemachter Leinwand, 107 × 102 cm)) ist im Spannungsfeld zwischen Figuration und Abstraktion angesiedelt. Die Leinwände für seine Malereien lässt der Künstler aus handgemachten Hanfschnüren in seinem Heimatdorf in der Provinz Yunnan herstellen. Die Sujets sind vergrösserte Details bekannter Meisterwerke oder Ausschnitte aus eigenen Skizzen. Die Struktur der Leinwand und der Glanz der Ölfarbe entwickeln je nach Lichteinfall ihr eigenes Muster, brechen das Dargestellte und lassen den Bildträger zum Objekt werden.

Li Gang wurde 1986 in Dali in der Provinz Yunnan geboren und studierte Ölmalerei an der Yunnan Dali Academy in Dali, China und Kunst am Department of Experimental Art an der Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China. Weitere Arbeiten aus den in Luzern gezeigten Werkserien werden auch ab dem 20. Oktober 2014 in der Gruppenausstellung Inside China im Palais de Tokyo in Paris zu sehen sein.