By Yang Xin Yi

Most people recognize Xiang Liqing for his photography work that focuses primarily on themes such as urbanization and modernization. His work objectively reflects upon the age of technology and incorporates images of high-rise buildings predominantly located in large cities such as Shanghai and Hangzhou. Xiang Liqing also draws inspiration from the rapid emergence of the “modern city” and his photographs reflect a chaotic state of affairs that is based upon the relationship between everyday life and the constantly changing city structure.

At the core of this one-man show, Xiang Liqing is exhibiting a new body of work that he started working on after the Shanghai 2003 Biennale. Upon first glance, the new works appear to focus on a theme entirely different from his previous photography work. However, from a conceptual point of view, this new series represents an extension of his earlier work. Here the artist concentrates on several themes to express a variety of problems emerging at different stages in time and he uses timely materials to create his artworks. “2003-Z-1” and the clay series are his most recent modes of expression. In the “2003-Z-1” series, Xiang Liqing uses several hundred saw blades, which he cuts two different sizes. He uses different angles and techniques to produce an installation with a multilayered effect. The result is abstract and the image changes depending upon how the viewer approaches the installation. Xiang Liqing is analyzing the process of a sharp blade moving through the medium to give the blade a new significance. At the same time, the blade is used to stress its inherent function – to cut through things. The clay series is divided into two parts incorporating photography and sculpture. These two parts explore the differences between the process of manual labor and mechanical production. One part consists of photographs of developed architectural structures. The other part consists of two different kinds of handmade clay sculptures – a figure crawling and a figure standing. These figures embody the external mould and inner feelings. The standing figure was handmade my using a layering process. The artist used his hands to add layer upon layer of clay until a figure emerged. The crawling figure was created by using a process similar to that of the early painters who used pure and simple line. The crawling figure has a lifelike expression that illustrates human form and inherent characteristics.

Additionally, the conceptualization and style used to create the flag and people work (currently on exhibit) illustrates a very important connection to Xiang Liqing’s earlier photography work. The artist combines computer generated images of ghost like figures and a big red flag to create the flag and people work. Unlike earlier works, the artist uses the computer to create a reality that is filled with unreal people. In another series, the artist turns to another photographic style – he uses a method of staging the scene to express his theme. This process represents several meanings.

In this exhibition, Xiang Liqing utilizes a variety of motifs to shed light on the multi faceted industrial system that is prevalent in Chinese society today. The artist refers to mechanical production to express his attitude towards the many problems in China today. The artist juxtaposes a handmade blade with other mechanical objects in an attempt to get people to question the place of mechanical production in society. Ultimately, the artist is addressing the phenomenon of China’s rapid industrialization and modernization, which has led to the erosion of handmade objects. This body of work stresses a critical attitude towards totally adopting mechanical production over manual labor.

Yang Xinyi

August 2003

Translated by Mei Guang (Megan Connolly)