<Xia_xi> is Fu Shuai’s first solo exhibition in Shanghai held at Art+ Shanghai Gallery from September 7th to October 27th, 2019. Following his first successful appearance in the group show “The Palpable Soul of the Surface” in early 2018, Art+ Shаnghai Gallery is unveiling his new series of work produced over the past two years. Fu Shuai’s oeuvre mainly revolves around exploring the ideas of reality, illusion, and perception. The artist is prone to play ‘imitation games' with the viewer’s perceptual judgment, cleverly incorporating into his work optical illusions along with the hyper-realistic portrayal of textures, particularly the one of rusty industrial metal. The upcoming exhibition of his recent works exemplifies Fu Shua’s underpinning thematic preoccupations focusing on reality and its deceptive appearance facilitated by the advent and omnipresence of technologies in our daily life. It is the confrontation of the real versus virtual, and people’s ever degenerative cognitive capability to discern between the two that have inspired the concept and aesthetics of his new <xia_xi> series.
In Chinese 罅隙 [xià xì] is an archaic word for a crack or gap. Since the word is not much in use anymore, for some younger generation of Chinese people and non-Chinese language speakers the necessity to understand the word would most probably prompt a quick search online. It is for this reason, when used in the title of the exhibition, the word has been enclosed in the <angle brackets> - the symbol used by the programmers in the markup language to display the text in the web browser. This simple example illustrates how super-computers carried in our pockets at all times have truly become the extension of our daily reality. In every home, on every desk, in every palm - a plasma screen, a monitor, a smartphone - illuminating the 21st-century existence and reflecting it back us.
The digital domain has solidly established itself as an indispensable dimension of our reality: mobile supercomputing, intelligent robots and softwares, self-operated devices, self-driven cars, neurotechnological brain enhancements, genetic editing, virtual and augmented realities… We are amid yet another Industrial Revolution that radically transforms the way we see the world, live our lives, work, communicate and build relationships with each other. This new technologically transmuted and enhanced reality fuses digital, physical and biological worlds, touching upon every possible discipline to the point it begins to challenge the idea of what it means to be real and what it means to be human…
It is this gaping wound in our collective consciousness and the effect it has on our capability to tell apart reality from its virtually enhanced simulation that Fu Shuai is referring to in his new <Xia Xi> series. His works present a vivid pictorial metaphor juxtaposing the ethereal omnipresence of the virtual amid the tangible materiality of the real. Narrow, wedge-shaped and rectilinear rays of fluorescent yellow, red, blue, orange, pink, and green crack open extensive planes of rusted metallic surfaces. Fu Shuai clarifies, “Facing computers and mobile phones every day, we have already gotten used to the machine-made fluorescent light. Rust is an allegory of the Industrial Age, it incorporates rich textural details and of course, the concept of time, the luminous colors of the Digital, or what I rather call, Dislocation Era that we live in today, emerge through the ‘cracks’ [xià xì ] of iron reality.”
Thus the relationships between crisply outlined shapes and richly textured planes in Fu Shuai’s geometric compositions become clearer. And yet the artist plants surprises amidst this unflagging clarity and deceivingly simple compositions. Fu Shuai’s works are not painted in the traditional sense, they are rather constructed on sheets of parchment paper or wooden panels with layers of acrylic paint mixed in with iron powder, well-camouflaged high-resolution photographs, and metallic items that can be found in any hardware store such as nails, hinges, and bolts.
Hidden photographs of rusty metallic surfaces next to their strikingly realistic pictorial portrayals present the first challenge for the viewers. With the precision of a jeweler, he enchases the photographs seamlessly in the fiber of his creations. The technique of collage that Fu Shuai is employing here perfectly embodies the core idea of “misplaced realities”, for it requires rigorous almost scrupulous looking and viewer’s best judgment to distinguish between the pictorial representation of reality, its photographic depiction, and real objects and materials, a.k.a. ready-mades, incorporated in the painting.
Fu Shuai’s work is a reply of a thinking artist, on the one hand, to the restless and high-tech euphoria from which we both suffer, benefit and know to be our future, and on the other to the permanently lurking threat of virtual nothingness. The striking contrast that Fu Shuai creates with the help of color, texture, and composition illustrates the real-life battlefield between the familiar reality of the tangible and looming enigma of what is yet to come.
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About Art+ Shanghai Gallery
The Art+ Shanghai Gallery was founded in October 2007 in the Shanghai's famous Bund area, Art+ Shanghai Gallery is a dynamic art space dedicated to the promotion and development of Chinese contemporary art.