A stopped truck carries a huge oil painting stretching across the foreground. In the distance there is a newly built city, a vision almost exactly the same as the one portrayed in the painting. This is Liu Xiaodong’s poster for his solo exhibition. Here the artist nearly entirely confirms the essential elements we have become familiar within his work: live action, video documentation, a regional story, realist oil painting. But the interesting thing is the final detail—the most central visual component: the invisible thing planted in the heart of the poster image. The painting is encased in packing material. It is indistinct, intermittently obscured by columns of packaging. (It still stands front-facing and majestic, demanding the bodily respect of looking at a painting.)
But is this kind of invisible consciousness implemented in the exhibition? Three paintings—realist compositions, at once immediate action and compilations of hidden detail—surge with the undercurrents of nature itself. On another side of the space, five photographs, modified liberally with pigment, expose the source material and working methods behind these pieces. Though rendered in rapid brushstrokes, the pictures require a slowness. The audience slowly comes to apprehend whose eyes, within the painting, take in the scene, and whose eyes, outside the painting, do the work. Equally as pressing are the still lifes and sketches on paper, all of uniform size, in which there appears no strain or force.
The exhibition process has become a principle thread in the language of contemporary art, but still cannot prepare us for when paintings cannot be digested. “To make progress, one must capture those things that are without images.” Are these ghost towns brimming with images, the looseness of experience, and the urgency of circumstance? Or are they a delaying tactic, a stalemate helping us to suspend ourselves still in the political abyss to which we have become accustomed?
(Translated by Katy Pinke)
Faurschou Foundation, Beijing
2015.09.12 – 2015.10.18