What are we to expect when the two young and celebrated artists from China, Li Hongbo and Shi Ningfang meet for their group show Truth at the Magda Danysz Gallery in Shanghai? For sure, we are in for a treat and a special insight into the new trends of contemporary art in China. But, more importantly, we are offered a universe of mesmerizing paper sculpture created by Li Hongbo, playing tricks with us and inviting us to secretly touch the surface checking if it isn’t really marble. The play between what is real and what constitutes the work of art is at the core of the production of Shi Ningfang as well and the two artists featured in the show for sure distort the truth of the creativity as we know it.
Playing with repetition in his process of creation, Li Hongbo, cannot count how many times he has folded the pieces of paper and glued them. For the creation of his elaborate paper sculptures, the paper is twisted, cut, and re-shaped, forming a new idea of the strength of the medium used and what it can withstand. Referencing classical art, the Roman bust portraits, or the ancient Chinese vases, Li Hongbo’s busts are new ideas of the old and classical heritage that have helped to form the roots and the tradition of sculpture and art history. The layering of the paper is for sure the most magical map of the artist’s labor, his process of creation, and the passing of the time, recording the fact that sometimes for the creation of his large works, Hongbo is known to spend months at a time.
In a similar way, Shi Ningfang also reshapes our understanding of the traditional materials for modeling production. In one of her latest pieces, featured in this exhibition, the bronze bell, supposedly a solid object is made squashy. Playing with the ideas of the soft and the solid, Ningfang subtly comments on the issues of the feminine and the masculine and focuses her production on the exploration of the dualities in the world. The link to tradition is what the two artists have in common and the way they re-shape and re-use the classical references are what invite the public’s attention to explore and to join the two artists on their journey.
These two artists help Magda Danysz Gallery to start their amazingly rich program in Shanghai. As one of the newest members and representatives of the gallery, their group show Truth will last from September 10th until October 29th, 2016. Promising to take the audience on a journey of exploration of the classical references and tradition with a twist, Shanghai is a place to be for sure. The exploration of materials and the questioning of what we have come to know as a solid truth regarding sculpture, Li Hongbo and Shi Ningfang are not afraid to question.
All the images courtesy of the Magda Danysz Gallery in Shanghai. Featured image: Shi Ningfang – Bell, close up.