VIP Preview: September 21, 11am CET – September 23, 2pm CET
Public Days: September 23, 2pm CET – September 26, 12 midnight CET
ShanghART Gallery is pleased to present Liang Shaoji's solo project "All things equal" at Art Basel Viewing room. Liang Shaoji, as the most unique and singular figure, is among one of the early generations of Chinese artists interacting with the international contemporary art stage since the 1980s. "Silk" has always been the pivotal medium throughout his four decades of an artistic career. Borrowing the core value of Chuang Tzu's eponymous classics, the specially curated project advocates Liang's aesthetic relativity theory. It features Liang's milestone works, including installation, sound, drawing, photography and video, to reveal the pattern of how artist quests upon life, nature and the universe through silkworm.
“All things equal” elaborates that all existences are dependent upon the opposite of existence due to the essence of fluidity and interconnectedness. Chuang Tzu believes in animism and regards man as an integral part of nature. The core spirit has become the philosophical foundation for Liang Shaoji’s creation to pursuit the highest level of unity between man and nature. Combing Liang’s scientific mind studying the habits and behaviour of silkworms, he artistically presents his perception of ancient wisdom and the mysterious universe. He aims to create a new form of ecological aesthetics that reflects upon Chinese and Western philosophy while collaborates with contemporary materials and experimental methodologies.
"My art is based on the concerns with the eco-environment and life. It derives from reflections on contemporary eco-aesthetics. It emphasises the interaction between nature and man, the spatial-timely changes in the process of art production as well as biological mediation."
Liang's four decades of art practice have been through five stages. His initial encounter with silk dated back to the 1980s while he worked as a fibre artist with the tapestry. Working along with the silkworm, Liang profoundly empathises with the sharing fate with the silkworm. Under the thread of "I am a silkworm" during the 1990s, the installation work Little Bed, made of burned copper entangled with silk and cocoons, is seen as the most representative work of this period. This work implies the unavoidable struggling cycle of human life inspired by the social milieu that everyone was coerced in the significant changes in China. The work was first exhibited at La Biennale di Venezia in 1999 and won international recognition. Time and Permanence, the silk triangular pyramid was conceived in the early 90s. Continually evolving for more than twenty years, the installation visualises the development of relativity between transience and eternity, which is not only embodied in the silkworm itself but all things.
Considering the environment of sericulture, Liang chose to set up his studio at the foot of Mt. Tiantai in Zhejiang province. Such a reclusive lifestyle allows him to immerse himself in nature. From the 2000s to 2009, different from the early works of adopting the concept and materials suggesting the fierce confrontation, Liang shifted from the intense conflict in early works to concentrating on gentle practice "life as the natural sample". The broken landscape resembles a long landscape scroll painting that is "painted" by traces of the entire life cycle of silkworms. He ingeniously transforms the perspective of appreciating the classical paintings to evoke the audience's reflection on the natural landscapes damaged by human activities. He continually expands the dimension to understanding nature. The sound work Listen to the Silkworms, archiving the soundtracks from the silkworm's daily activities, is perceived as infiltrating time and history. The natural state unfolds the serene parallel space.
After two decades of cooperating with silkworms, Liang’s recent ten years exploration from 2010 to 2019 is “returning to the origin”. Enlightened by the two-thousand-year-old silk garments excavated from Mawangdui (King Ma's Mound), Planar Tunnel emerged in response to Liang’s contemplation that the lightest silk clothes bear the weight of thousands of years’ history. The thin dream-like circle plane is a double metaphor, the flat “screen” that people use to receive and obtain information and the “tunnel” from the cultural level to connect history and time. His revisit to ancient culture sparks a new series of creations based on how natural elements are associated with ancient Chinese poetry and culture. Heavy Clouds and Snow in the Woods present the harmonious state between lightness and heaviness of being. The process of how silkworms spin silk appears to generate clouds or snow. The ancients claimed that the trees and rocks hidden in the misty mountain ranges are the roots of clouds. Liang imitates the beauty of wonderland by juxtaposing the natural elements from “heaven” and “earth” in space.
Liang Shaoji claims his life is "entangled with silk" after four decades of living and working with silkworms. On the occasion of his largest solo exhibition at Power Station of Art Museum in Shanghai, "A Silky Entanglement" makes a summary of the trajectory which marks the explored themes and unfolds the latest practices and breakthroughs. His works march forward to profound and lasting motifs, the infinity of the universe and human being themselves. Black / Xuan depicts a scene that the interlaced cloudy silk surface floats against the vast dark backdrop. Silk symbolises the chaotic clusters of imagination which unleashed into the vast space. Besides searching the unknown fields, Liang constantly contemplates the living condition of people. Silk made human Skin creates the visual effect of narrowing the difference between man and other natural existence. The artist quotes, "you would find each fold of skin embeds the distance of life and death".
The selected landmark works survey forty year’s career of the artist. His works have been developed from striking visual effects, sound experience to tactile sensation. Each series of works possesses the ability of growth like life itself. Liang Shaoji compiles his philosophy with two groups of homophonic words, “Silk (Si), Thinking(Si), History (Shi)” and “Poem (Shi) as well as Silkworm (can), Tangling (chan), broken (can) and Zen (chan)”. Silk and silkworm as the medium, thinking and tangling as the methodology, history and broken as a state of artist himself and the condition of humankind, last but not least, poem and Zen as the realm to transcend.