10 Apr - 29 Aug 2010

© Pascale Marthine Tayou
“Plastic Tree B”, 2010
wild pear-tree (pyrus piraster), plastic bags, Chinese pot, plants, flowers, soil, variable dimensions

10 April – 29 August 2010

Galleria Continua is pleased to present the group show REM(A)INDERS at its Beijing gallery. The exhibition features the work of a number of prominent artists on the international art scene: Ai Weiwei, Subodh Gupta, Liu Jianhua, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Nari Ward, Zhuang Hui & Dan’Er.

The exhibition enables viewers to compare work by artists from around the world (Italy, China, Unites States, Cameroon, India), who are also heterogeneous in terms of age and background. The themes they have been invited to reflect upon and give expression to are summed up in the play on words that forms the title of the show. Rem(a)inders is a combination of two words, remainders and reminders. The first evokes everything that has in some way finished its cycle – objects that are no longer used and materials considered second-rate or of little interest or attraction. The second, reminders, takes us into the realm of memory, of the passage of time, of the preservation of the past through recollection but also of the gesture that draws attention to an element, an instant, an action, something small and marginal but that deserves not to be forgotten.
The perspective shaping the exhibition shows how the creative process set in motion by these artists is able to give new life and meaning to objects and materials commonly regarded as scraps, rejects or rubbish of no value. In the metamorphosis of the creative act, the sites of memory change; the spaces and domestic objects of our everyday lives become the subjects of work that tells new stories. The piling up, taking apart and reassembling of objects thus becomes a metaphor of entropic and evolutionary movements. The collecting of the objet trouvé thwarts the attempt to psychologically repress it or the oblivion to which it appeared destined. The rereading of the waste materials discarded by consumer society and the passage of time are, then, the product of an archaeological (that of an ipotetical “future archaeology”) and psychological excavation that transcends the world of pure representation.

For Ai Weiwei (Beijing 1957, lives and works in Beijing, China), art is a “play of intelligence” that leads him to experiment with different expressive forms, and to move freely between past and present, between historic and more topical cultural resources. Ai Wei Wei’s artistic practice plays on the demolition of symbols and on the consequent determination of new meanings. In this way the artist breaks down and reassembles objects, giving life to new forms to which he attributes connotations that differ from their original ones, as in the work he is showing in Rem(a)inders. His installation 《》 is made of numerous traditional brand bicycles called “Forever” (Yong Jiu Pai) that has been stopped producing now. Their classic designed style and comfort structure recalls the past. The artist cut each bicycle into 5cm fine pieces, and piled them up within the space. This installation is far away from the spectacle view of “bicycle tide” embedded in the memory of his generation. In his sculpture installations with bicycles, the artist initially paid more attention to the variation of forms by re-assembling the medium. However, in this work, the medium has been fragmented and minced. The artist hopes to arouse viewers contemplation of the history through pure material mass. Something can remain in the memories, but for itself, it always has its own history that can not be surpassed. Ai Weiwei’s artworks manifest the maximized tension by the simple static state without additional explanations, and the viewers can be exposed to the laden feeling by culture accumulates.

Subodh Gupta (Khagaul 1964, lives and works in New Delhi, India) is emblematic of Indian contemporary art. In his paintings, sculptures, installations and videos, the artist dwells on the relationships between archaism and the fantasies of modernity to which society aspires. Everyday objects are transformed into allegories of a society going through an accelerated period of change, where traditional roots and modernist desires are constantly intermingling. In this exhibition he presents a series of new paintings depicting left-over food and laid tables, a visual tribute to the country hosting his work. Rendered in a realistic style with bright, clear-cut colours, these still lifes are presented by Gupta in elaborately rich frames of 16th-century taste.

Ceramics and porcelain are the materials that Liu Jianhua (Ji'an 1962, lives and works in Shanghai, China) particularly likes employing in his practice; apparently resistant but actually very fragile, it is precisely this duality between appearance and substance that prompts the artist to use them. China has a long tradition of artistic ceramic and porcelain production, and in the work on display in Rem(a)inders, Liu Jianhua traces its history and goes to Jingdezhen in the province of Jiangxi, very famous site for the production of refined porcelains, visually, absolutely perfect. Jingdezhen is indeed the place symbol of the beauty and of the conceptual, moral and historical solidity of the country. However, the artist does not focus on the production but on recovering what has been discarded. In his hands, poorly manufactured or faulty items take on new meaning reacquiring an aesthetic, conceptual and, above all, moral value.

One of the leading exponents of Arte Povera, Michelangelo Pistoletto (Biella 1933, lives and works in Biella, Italy), has also produced a new work for this exhibition, a symbol of a relative reality in a state of becoming, where everything ineluctably flows, is transformed and passes by. The sculpture consists of an immobile, statuary figure of a Buddha and the varied profusion of a pile of old rags and clothes, and of used electronic materials. The work plays on contrasts in structure, consistency, colour and tactility. The clothes carry with them traces and memories of those who used, touched and experienced them – the concrete exuberance of the real set against timeless “ideal beauty”.

The controversial conceptual artists Sun Yuan & Peng Yu (Beijing 1972 and Heilongjiang 1974, live and work in Beijing, China) are considered, thanks to their natural expressive extremism, artists audaciously conceptual. So controversial that they are continously risking strong reactions from their own governance, beside their cultural surrounding. Their new work for this show aims to give the spectators an heavy sense of oppression, that for the artists themselves is by now usual, and which they have assimilated with great lucidity and disenchantment. The artists will attach a police siren to their ordinary Jeep and they will keep using it normally, daily, subverting the roles of the powerful and the repressed, acting their performance piece, which is highly provocative with respect to a historically repressive and violent society. When their action is interrupted by the intervention of the police, the Jeep will be stripped of its equivocal component, the siren, ceasing to exist as a work of art and becoming, at that point, a scrap without value.

Pascale Marthine Tayou (Cameroon 1967, lives and works in Gent, Belgium) reuses existing objects, society’s waste, which he recycles in order to give a second life to things, dwelling in the process on the idea of decomposition/recomposition. The object central to the work conceived for Rem(a)inders is the plastic bag: common colourful bags. These are attached to a tree as if to form the foliage. The plastic bag is an extremely common object that crosses frontiers, can be found all over the world and is universal in its usefulness and uselessness. Tayou is interested both in its quality as an object in permanent transit and its paradoxical, dual function, now a bourgeois object, now a proletarian one. It is bourgeois when used to contain the purchased item, and becomes proletarian when it is emptied of its contents. “It is the uselessness, the content of nothing, nothing at the service of fullness”, as the artist puts it.
The poetics of ruins, of cast-off and consumed scraps, is the distinctive feature of the work of Jamaican artist Nari Ward (Saint Andrei 1963, moved to Harlem, New York when he was a youth, and where he still lives and works today). An almost “animistic” conception of detritus emerges in his work. Ward rummages around with his bare hands in the rubbish tip of indifference. Inspired by a profoundly religious spirit, he reevokes, in his collecting of objects, presences and stories associated with atavistic fears or emotions (life, death and dying, pain, joy, going to the origin of the reasons of existence themselves). He weaves original narrative threads, rehabilitating materials by injecting them with a new spirituality. The objects that Nari Ward uses for his works are charged with stories and memories, and also express proximity, contingency and transitoriness. Endowed with a powerful physicality and intensely emotional echoes, they talk about us, as can be seen in the two works on show in the exhibition. One is a site-specific piece situated on the first floor of the gallery. The other, a sculpture entitled China Idle, is a kind of totem made of tips of old shoes and consumed tires.

Zhuang Hui (Yumen 1963, lives and works in Beijing) employs various expressive media in his work, including large-scale installations, photography, painting and performance, displaying a topical fusion between make-belief and reality, reflecting deeply on appearances, and, finally, expressing open criticism of a society afflicted by serious spiritual impoverishment. The group of works in the show has been specially conceived for the occasion and realized together with Dan’Er (born in the province of Shanbei in 1983, lives in Beijing), an artist with whom he has worked on a number of other important projects since 2006. Wood shavings and small off-cuts, which are usually trodden underfoot or ignored, become the subjects of artworks. Enlarged to unreal dimensions, they are transformed into unusual and harmonious sculptures. Adopting minimalist-style compositional rhythms, Zhuang Hui & Dan’Er activate not only a process of aesthetization but also one of intellectualization.

For further information about the show and for photographic material:
Silvia Pichini, Communication Manager:, cell +39 347 45 36 136

Tags: Subodh Gupta, Li Hui, Liu Jianhua, M. Pistoletto, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Nari Ward, Ai Weiwei, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Sun Yuan + Peng Yu