Press Release – English
Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to announce the opening of a solo exhibition of Li Zhanyang (*1969 in Changchun, China; lives and works in Chongqing and Beijing, China) in our Beijing gallery, entitled “The Nightmare”.
In China, a fast-growing global economic superpower with a population of over 1.3 billion people, being a child means learning from a tender age how much weight is placed on classroom education as a way to distinguish oneself and be successful in life. It means enduring a very busy daily study schedule, an endless stream of exams, and the unceasing struggle in pursuit of outstanding scholastic achievements. It means constant pressure, as well as fierce competition. As an art professor and the father of a nine-year-old girl, artist Li Zhanyang is very familiar with the Chinese educational system.
In his one-man show entitled “The Nightmare”, Li Zhanyang draws inspiration from the school experiences of his daughter and countless other Chinese children, metaphorically transposing it into the two large scale installations featured in the exhibition. In one of the works, the scene comes into sight like a disquieting oneiric vision suspended in darkness, stillness and complete silence. In the middle of the space, the life-size fiberglass sculpture of a schoolgirl is portrayed looking up at a mass of schoolbags and sharp metal blades that loom threateningly from above. When seen from afar, her head is the only visible part of her body, emerging from the middle of a well made of three tons of examination sheets. The impossibility for the girl to escape from a prolonged condition of imprisonment and impending danger conveys a growing feeling of helpless distress.
In the second installation by Li Zhanyang, the artist fills a wall with a multitude of those triangular red scarves that are given to only the most achieving Chinese primary school students as a symbol of the national flag and the “Young Pioneer” movement. If on the one hand red scarves serve as an incentive for the students to improve their motivation and performances, on the other hand they might be seen as a discriminatory instrument that undermines the self-confidence of the underachieving children. With their ambivalent nature, red scarves epitomize an official label for acknowledgment, excellence and success that every child is demanded to attain.