Tobias Rehberger
"Das Kind muss raus 生"

May 3 - July 6, 2014
Opening: Saturday, May 3, 2014; 4 - 7pm

Tobias Rehberger
Das Kind muss raus 生

2014 (english)

Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to present Frankfurt-based artist Tobias Rehberger (*1966 in Esslingen, Germany) in his first solo show in China as well as with the gallery. One of the most important German artists of his generation, the 2009 Biennale di Venezia Golden Lion winner regularly straddles the lines between the realms of painting, sculpture, design, architecture, and conceptual art, shaping a body of work that is as dynamic as it is celebrated. These newest pieces, devised by Rehberger especially for Beijing and produced in Beijing and Jingdezhen, collectively act as a specially formulated continuation of his ongoing investigations into spatial awareness, matters of perception, and the everyday made extraordinary.
Never one to be constrained by material limitations, Rehberger has added porcelain to his creative arsenal with these newest works.
First of several large-scale works in Das Kind muss raus生 is HOMEAWAY (Oppenheimer Drawings I)—Rehberger’s second reconstruction of his hometown bar of choice for over twenty-five years. A closely related piece, HOMEAWAY (Oppenheimer Drawings II), will be shown in the Encounters sector of Art Basel
Hong Kong—a curated selection of large-scale works and installations to take center stage at the show. Born from a gallerist’s half-joking quip suggesting that Rehberger take his favorite local hangout with him as he travels, this specific iteration of Frankfurt’s Bar Oppenheimer is made primarily from unglazed porcelain. As a result, this relatively porous surface remains, by design susceptible to stains, scratches, and various other marks that Rehberger has affectionately dubbed “memory traces” that will result from this piece’s role as a fully operational bar. Featuring a brighter palette than the black, white, and orange dominating the bar’s installation in New York’s Hôtel Americano in 2013, HOMEAWAY (Oppenheimer Drawings I) retains the signature “dazzle” pattern—sets of bold stripes originally used on warships during World War I meant to prevent enemies from ascertaining a vessel’s type, speed, location, and heading. Realized in 1:1 scale to the original bar, HOMEAWAY (Oppenheimer Drawings I) creates exactly what its title promises—an artist’s home away from home. By both modifying the Frankfurt bar’s décor and by shifting its location, Rehberger renders the familiar unfamiliar and foregrounds the phenomenological to create not only a visual spectacle, but also an immersive environment. He attests that oftentimes art is not something to stare directly at, but rather something to be experienced—that something behind the viewer can be just as important as what is in front of him/her. In this work, artistry becomes part of the everyday and almost hidden, thus emulating the bold yet unexpectedly subtle dazzle-camouflaged ships not only aesthetically but also conceptually.
Rehberger supplements his visual inquiry into turning the bold invisible with three new pieces—Dazzle Sculptures Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, Die Welt kurz vor Erfindung des Tiefen Tellers-世界在汤盘发明之前, and Go away. In both Dazzle Sculptures Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, sculptures made from paper, and Go away, a lamp made from porcelain, the artist has strategically positioned these objects in front of geometric watercolor patterns. As the viewer moves through the gallery space, the objects, although spatially removed from their painted backdrops, fade in and out of visibility as they blend into their surroundings, thus nearly negating the works’ initial visual complexity. Die Welt kurz vor Erfindung des Tiefen Tellers -
functions on a similar basis. This room is covered from floor to ceiling in hand-painted pink and yellow watercolor panels arranged in an illusory tessellated pattern. Placed within the space are three stools and a table that are similarly adorned. Along with the chosen colors, this pattern creates the impression of constant gentle movement. Similarly to the sculptural pairings in Dazzle Sculptures Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter and Go away, the room’s furniture manages to camouflage with their environment.
Closely related to HOMEAWAY (Oppenheimer Drawings I) is HOMEAWAY (Schütte-Lihotzky Drawings)—Rehberger’s porcelain recreation of the iconic Frankfurt kitchen. Designed in 1926 by Viennese architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, this precursor to the modern-day fitted kitchen was created for implementation in low-cost apartments built to ease the Frankfurt housing shortage that had persisted since the end of World War I. Drawing on ideals championed by the Bauhaus and the Deutscher Werkbund, Schütte-Lihotzky held the principle of basic, function-over-form design in high esteem, making sure that ornamentation was virtually nonexistent in the kitchen. By recreating this innovative and revolutionary design, Rehberger, as in HOMEAWAY (Oppenheimer Drawings I), brings Frankfurt with him as he travels. HOMEAWAY (Schütte-Lihotzky Drawings) is painted relatively plainly in accordance with the original plans, showcasing Rehberger’s versatility with a departure from the bold visual statements that pervade the exhibition.
The remaining works in the exhibition deal with memory, its material translation, and its physical manifestation. The five porcelain pieces that comprise xing qi tian ren men bu gong zuo are all replicas of a teapot owned by Rehberger’s family during his childhood. Although the five pieces differ from one another, they are all based on the very same object. To create these slightly varying pieces, Rehberger himself, his mother, his father, his brother, and his daughter each drew the teapot from memory. These drawings were then sent to artisans in Jingdezhen who faithfully recreated them in three dimensions. This interest in memory and the transfer of information is nothing new for Rehberger. Rather it is one that has run through his oeuvre for over twenty years. In 1994, Rehberger created an untitled series of works in which Cameroonian craftsmen created iconic chairs according only to drawings that Rehberger made from memory.
Also dealing with memory are the eleven porcelain bird sculptures Zippy (1 Year) - Zippy (11 years) dotted throughout the exhibition. These small sculptures depict a canary that Rehberger received as a gift on his first birthday and lived for eleven years. Depicted in various poses, the unique figurines are based on still photos taken of the bird throughout its life.

A professor since 2001 at Frankfurt’s Städelschule, the school he attended from 1987 to 1993 and one of Europe’s most prestigious art schools, Rehberger took part in his first exhibition in 1992. Since then, he has had solo exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2008); Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany (2008); Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2007); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina
Sofía, Madrid, Spain (2005); Whitechapel Gallery, London, England (2004); and Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2002). Most recently in 2014, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt hosted an extensive exhibition of Rehberger’s work that will go on to travel to Rome’s MAXXI. He has also presented at the Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju, South Korea (2012); Manifesta 1 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands (1996) and 2, Luxembourg
(1998); and the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (1997, 2003 and 2009). In 2009, he was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist for his installation Was Du liebst, bringt dich auch zum weinen at the Palazzo delle Esposizione at the Venice Biennale. Other awards include the Otto-Dix-Preis (2001) and the Hans-Thoma-Preis in 2009.


Shao Fan
"Face to Face"

April 25 - July 5, 2014
Opening: Friday, April 25, 2014; 6 - 8pm

Shao Fan

Portrait 2013

Oil on canvas

Shao Fan
Face to Face

2014 (english)

Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of Shao Fan (*1964 in Beijing, China) in Lucerne. For his last exhibition at the gallery in Beijing, it was important to the artist to discuss the different attributes of the term “old” in the East and West, and with the Eastern one also his own convictions. Whereas in our culture the word is related to terms such as worn out, faulty, outdated and ugly, the word has a much more positive meaning in China. Oldness is regarded as a quality, something approved and proven, mature, rare, and, above all, beautiful. When confronted with the antiquities Shao Fan uses, this view needs no explanation, because Eastern and Western perceptions are quite similar here. But when it comes to contemporary painting, a Western viewer needs to detach himself from the logic of the avant-garde and its pursuit of the new and unknown. Asian art does not involve the concept of genius, where greatness is measured by the artist’s ability to create original artworks that break with tradition. Here, the ideal is the master craftsman whose constant practice brings him close to perfection. Shao Fan is an incurable classicist in the Chinese sense, and it is in this context that the recurring motif of a hare can be explained (Misty Winter, 2013, oil on canvas, 150 x 100 cm; Portrait, 2013, oil on canvas, 200 x 170 cm; Portrait, 2013, oil on canvas, 150 x 100 cm). Shao Fan does not paint the hare because it has a special meaning to him, or because of the many myths told about it in Chinese culture. To Shao Fan it is just an animal, like all the others he paints. His animal portraits are more or less anthropomorphic and composed with reflection symmetry; they are always painted in different shades of gray and the subject depicted is contrasted with the texture, which resembles stone. The achromatic palette is chosen on purpose, to make the paintings appear old. Often his pictures are titled Portrait and humanized, because Shao Fan wants to depict human feelings in subjects other than humans. Even his pear (Medicine, 2012, oil on canvas, 170 x 210 cm) looks as it is uncomfortable, while the portrait of an apple brings body parts to mind (Portrait – Apple No.1, 2013, oil on canvas, 110 x 150 cm; Portrait – Apple No. 2, 2013, oil on canvas, 82 x 71 cm). A monkey looks at a mirror (Monkey Looking into Mirror No.2, 2012, oil on canvas, 66 x 49 cm), a rabbit sits at a desk, an eagle is presented head-on, as it is the custom for portraits (Portrait – Eagle, 2013, oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm), and a tiger has a child’s facial features (Baby Tiger, 2011, oil on canvas, 200 x 160 cm). The anthropomorphic process makes Shao Fan’s subjects appear cute and comical. The animals depicted touch us. They also touch Shao Fan, yet they do not hold any special importance for him, so this effect is not intended, but is based on our Western misconception. A detour helps to understand Shao Fan’s Taoist outlook on the world. Juxtaposing a statement by film director Werner Herzog—an exemplary point of view held by someone who is convinced of the privileged position of mankind—with Shao Fan’s paintings, it becomes clear what the artist sees, or does not see: “… in all the faces ... I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. ... And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food.”1 A person with an attitude toward animals that is similar to Herzog’s will see cynical humor in Shao Fan’s paintings. However, to the artist it is only natural to paint hares as relatives who look at us as equals and communicate with us on an emotional level. Another difference in the socialization of both our cultures contributes to the misunderstanding. While we are used to trying to understand the essence of a thing through intellectual abstraction, in China essence is grasped through the senses. Consequently, even if the animals depicted look cute to us, we have to keep in mind that the artist’s intention has nothing to do with what we associate with the term “cute.”

In Shao Fan’s art subject and form are of equal value. His paintings do not open worlds; they are first and foremost object and material. It is easier to perceive his works in this fashion when looking at his three-dimensional pieces. Shao Fan was among the first artists in China to create works that walk a fine line between art and design (Embroidered Tea Table – 2012, No. 3, 2013, walnut, table: 78 x 200 x 131 cm, stools: 50 x 59 x 49 cm). Shortly after graduating from Beijing Arts and Crafts College in 1984, he began working on objects, relating to this as his passion. For example, he combines a chair from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with acrylic glass plates in a way that makes it seem as if the chair is exploding and its individual pieces are about to fly apart. The inner structure revealed—the individual parts—is as beautiful to Shao Fan as the assembled whole. This is a familiar principle of calligraphy. Each stroke is executed with the sense that it alone is already beautiful. Shao Fan usually works in the Western technique of oil painting, but recently has created a number of portraits in traditional Chinese ink. For example, Portrait – Small Ink Rabbit No. 2 (2013, ink on rice paper, painting: 170 x 90 cm, scroll: 274 x 100 cm) consists of a number of individual, curved, narrowing brush strokes that together create the image. Shao Fan used a similar kind of line in a sculpture, as well. Ming Beard – 2006, No. 5 (2006, red sandalwood, 43 x 152 x 12 cm) is part of a series of objects that he recreated in the style and simplicity of the Ming Dynasty. The curved shape does not at first make the viewer think of a hair from a beard, but Shao Fan is not interested in the reproduction of real life models or individual features in any medium he uses. The concrete would only distract him from the beauty of his inner world, he says.

1 Werner Herzog’s comment in: Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man, 2005, documentary, 103 mins.



Shao Fan
Face to Face

2014 (deutsch)

Galerie Urs Meile freut sich, die erste Einzelausstellung von Shao Fan (*1964 in Beijing, China) in Luzern auszurichten. Für seine letzte Ausstellung in der Galerie Urs Meile in Peking war es dem Künstler wichtig gewesen, die unterschiedlichen Bedeutungszuschreibungen des Begriffes ‹alt› in Ost und West – und mit dem östlichen auch seine eigene Überzeugung – zu erörtern. Während beim Thema Alter in unserem Kulturkreis Aspekte wie beschädigt, mangelhaft, überholt und hässlich mitschwingen, sieht man in China im Alten eine Qualität, etwas Erprobtes, Bewährtes, Gereiftes, Rares und vor allem etwas Schönes. Bei den von Shao Fan verwendeten Antiquitäten muss dies einem westlichen Betrachter nicht erklärt werden, dort sind die Auslegungen ähnlich. Wenn es aber um zeitgenössische Malerei geht, dann muss man sich bewusst von der Logik der westlichen Avantgarden und deren Streben nach Neuem und Ungesehenem lösen. Die asiatische Kunst setzt der Idee vom westlichen Genie die des Meisters entgegen. Während dieser durch Wiederholung dem Ideal nahe kommt, wird vom Genie eine originelle Kreation erwartet, die alles Vergangene in den Schatten stellt. Shao Fan ist ein unverbesserlicher Klassizist im chinesischen Sinn und über diesen Kontext ist auch das immer wiederkehrende Motiv des Hasen zu erschliessen (Misty Winter, 2013, Öl auf Leinwand, 150 x 100 cm, Portrait, 2013, Öl auf Leinwand, 200 x 170 cm; Portrait, 2013, oil on canvas, 150 x 100 cm). Shao Fan malt ihn nicht, weil er eine besondere Bedeutung für ihn hat oder wegen der Mythen, die sich in der chinesischen Kultur um ihn ranken. Für den Künstler ist er ein Tier unter vielen. Mal mehr, mal weniger anthropomorph schafft er achsensymmetrische Tierporträts in verschiedenen Grautönen und kontrastiert das Dargestellte mit der Struktur der Farbe, die nicht an Fell, sondern an Stein erinnert. Die unbunte Palette der Bilder ist bewusst gewählt, um ihnen den Anschein von Alter zu verleihen. Häufig sind sie als Portrait betitelt und damit personifiziert, denn es geht Shao Fan darum, an anderen Subjekten als an Menschen, menschliche Gefühle darzustellen. Sogar die von ihm gemalte Birne (Medicine, 2012, oil on canvas, 170 x 210 cm) sieht unwohl aus und auch das Portrait des Apfels erinnert an Körperpartien (Portrait – Apple No.1, 2013, Öl auf Leinwand, 110 x 150 cm, Portrait – Apple No. 2, 2013, Öl auf Leinwand, 82 x 71 cm). Der Affe schaut in den Spiegel (Monkey looking into Mirror No.2, 2012, Öl auf Leinwand, 66 x 49 cm), ein Hase sitzt am Tisch, der Adler wird, wie es für Portraits üblich ist, frontal gezeigt (Portrait – Eagle, 2013, Öl auf Leinwand, 100 x 80 cm), der Tiger hat ein Kindergesicht (Baby Tiger, 2011, Öl auf Leinwand, 200 x 160 cm). Durch die Vermenschlichung wirken Shao Fans Subjekte auf uns niedlich und komisch. Die dargestellten Tiere rühren uns, und das tun sie auch mit Shao Fan. Trotzdem sind sie von keiner speziellen Wichtigkeit für ihn und diese Wirkung war nicht intendiert, sondern basiert auf unserem westlichen Missverständnis. Um Shao Fans taoistische Weltsicht zu verstehen, hilft ein Umweg. Stellt man den Arbeiten das Zitat von Regisseur Werner Herzog gegenüber – exemplarisch, als Standpunkt von einem, der von der privilegierten Stellung des Menschen überzeugt ist – versteht man, was Shao Fan sieht bzw. nicht sieht: «In den Gesichtern [...] kann ich keine Verwandtschaft, kein Verständnis, keine Gnade entdecken. [...] Ich sehe lediglich die überwältigende Gleichgültigkeit der Natur. [...] und dieses leere Stieren erzählt von nichts, ausser einem halbgelangweilten Interesse an Futter.» Wessen Verhältnis zur Tierwelt dem von Herzog ähnelt, der wird in den Bildern von Shao Fan zynischen Humor erkennen. Für den Künstler hingegen ist es selbstverständlich, die Hasen als Verwandte zu malen, die uns gleichberechtigt anschauen und uns auf der Gefühlsebene ansprechen. Dabei kommt ein weiterer Grundunterschied in der Sozialisation unserer beiden Welten zum Tragen: Während wir es gewohnt sind, die Essenz eines Dinges intellektuell-abstrahierend begreifen zu versuchen, wird sie in der chinesischen Kultur sinnlich erfahren. Wenn uns die dargestellten Tiere also niedlich erscheinen, dann hat das nichts mit dem zu tun, was wir mit diesem Begriff verbinden.

In Shao Fans Kunst sind Subjekt und Form gleichberechtigt. Seine Gemälde eröffnen keine Welten, sie sind in erster Linie Gegenstand und Material. Bei den Objekten fällt es etwas leichter, sie als das zu sehen. Als einer der ersten Künstler in China schuf Shao Fan Objekte an der Grenze von Kunst und Design (Embroidered Tea Table – 2012, No.3, 2013, Walnuss, Tisch: 78 x 200 x 131 cm, Hocker: 50 x 59 x 49 cm). Bereits kurz nach seinem Abschluss 1984 am Beijing Arts and Crafts College begann er dreidimensional zu arbeiten und bezeichnet es als seine Passion. Er kombiniert beispielsweise einen Stuhl aus der Ming Dynastie (1368-1644) mit Plexiglasplatten (Project No.1 of the Year 2004, 2004, Ulme, Acryl, 170 x 130 x 120 cm), so dass es scheint, der Stuhl explodiere und die Einzelteile seien im Begriff auseinanderzufliegen. Die innere Struktur, die so zum Vorschein kommt, die einzelnen Elemente, sind für Shao Fan genauso ästhetisch wie die zusammengesetzte Gesamterscheinung. Dieses Prinzip ist aus der Kalligraphie bekannt: Jeder einzelne Strich wird bereits mit der Motivation gesetzt, dass er für sich allein schön ist. Shao Fan arbeitet viel in der westlichen Technik der Ölmalerei, aber schafft in letzter Zeit auch Portraits in der traditionellen chinesischen Tuschetechnik. Zum Beispiel besteht Portrait – small ink Rabbit No. 2 (2013, Tusche auf Reispapier, Malerei: 170 x 90 cm, Rolle: 274 x 100 cm) aus einer Vielzahl von einzelnen, geschwungenen, sich am Ende zuspitzenden Linien, die gemeinsam den Bildgegenstand ergeben. Eine gleichartige Linie setzte Shao Fan skulptural um: Ming Beard – 2006, No. 5 (2006, rotes Sandelholz, 43 x 152 x 12 cm) ist Teil einer Serie von Gegenständen, die er im Stil und der Schlichtheit der Ming Dynastie realisierte. Die geschwungene Form lässt nicht zuerst ein Barthaar vermuten, aber die treue Abbildung von realen Vorlagen oder individuellen Erscheinungen interessiert Shao Fan in keinem Medium. Das Konkrete würde ihn nur von der Schönheit seiner inneren Welt ablenken, sagt er.

1 Werner Herzog im Off-Kommentar in Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man, 2005, Dokumentarfilm, 103 Minuten.