Ruined World Like a Rubik’s Cube

Feng Hanping Solo Exhibition

Date: 15 July – 21 August 2011

Opening: 6-8pm 15 July

Emerging Chengdu based artist Feng Hanping holds his first solo exhibition at Andrew James Art from the 15th July.

The title of the shows takes it’s name from the idea that the ruined landscapes and scenarios in the paintings are unpredictable and change rapidly, like the Rubik’s Cube with several different sides and aspects, however no matter how we alter the outside the core never changes.

Rapid technology development has brought us convenience, but it also brought our society illness, cities and people are changing, the future seems hopeful but at the same time lots of people are trying to escape from it too. The artist has included in his artwork glorious stage curtains and spot lights, fading flowers and abandoned fountains, seductive mattresses and sofas, ruined buildings and broken bridges, all of which has created an orthodoxy unexplained mystery.

Sometimes human are like a homeless dog in a chaotic city, forever searching. They are finding it difficult to live in harmony in the city, even if they drop their dignity and willing to be the slaves of the world, maybe they only belong to the dark and horror corners. Perhaps we as human also need to return to where we started, sometimes we even need to get away from such a chaos, wishing the next pain will be less dramatic and will come later.

All Shook Up

In our transparent age of twitter pics and wikileaks, sometimes the most interesting things are born out of obfuscation or censorship. As such, it is no surprise that paintings from the formerly sealed off areas of East Germany and China share so much in common. In Feng Hanping’s paintings, one quickly sees the kitschy and fractured worldview of Neo Rauch. Like Rauch and other members of the Liepzig School, Feng’s work is informed both by a prevailing ideology and its breakdown. It responds to the vacuum that comes along with a period of growth and plentitude.

Feng Hanping was born in Guilin and went to school in Sichuan, two areas known for dramatic mountainscapes. Though most will concentrate on the manmade geography of his paintings­–the endless apartment blocks that he renders without sentimentality–it is these mountains, both structurally and historically, that are most important. (Incidentally, Rauch was also raised in the small town nestled in the Harz mountains.) In the Rauch’s paintings, mountains hark back to the nationalism of Alpine culture. In Feng Hanping’s, the mountains recall the pillars of karst found in traditional literati painting. Both artists’ work briefly function nostalgically, but quickly move past it to camp and satire. It’s just as well. Taken seriously, nostalgia is a dangerous element; it preaches conservatism, parochialism, and irresponsibility towards the present and the future. These paintings couldn’t be described as nostalgic, just jaded. In this lens, the mountains come to represent the failed sublime. A vastness achieved not by nature but by industry and commodity culture, communicating not amazement but an itchy dissatisfaction with the world.

His compositions also are midstep between the contemporary and the historical. One of the most lasting challenges of painting is finding a way to present the passage of time. An early European solution was the triptych altarpiece. As the viewer’s eyes moved from one third of the composition to the next, the story unfolded. This is analogous to the Chinese hand scroll. Although contemporary museums display the entire scroll at once, the traditional viewing method was to unroll the scroll in small increments, a process which forces the viewer to spend time absorbing the painting. Although Feng Hanping’s possess the trappings of representation, they lack the linear and spatial progression. This fragmentation clearly relates to the schizophrenia of the postmodern global scene, but is still owe much to historical precedents.

Hovering above the paintings is a superficial layer of drips and splashes of paint. This is not the spectral games of light and color that one finds in Peter Doig’s work, nor is it akin to Gerhard Richter’s non-diegetic squeegee pulls. Rather, Feng Hanping’s device lies between these two painters, contributing to the world of the painting without sacrificing the materiality of the paint itself. This materiality is echoed by the presence of snow, another device that links these paintings to the aforementioned European traditions. But the snow doesn’t seem to be a natural phenomena; it represents white noise, visual pixelation, air pollution–the particalization of contemporary life. To return to the title of the show: a cube with a fractured surface that, through logic, can be altered and returned to original form. However, these paintings more resemble a snow globe.  An insular world, shaken by an invisible hand, blinded by swirls of debris.

Hunter Braithwaite