From May 30th to August 29th 2009
Opening May 30th 2009 from 18h to 20h30
The Karsten Greve Gallery is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of the Chinese artist Liang Shaojiin in France. Composed mainly of installations, it will be the occasion to show a collection of works representative of the artist’s past ten years of activity. Liang Shaojiin’s work is imbued with a spirit of meditation and is likewise greatly inspired by Nature, which for him constitutes our cultural environment over and above being our direct environment. References issuing from a heritage of ancient poetry and ancestral Chinese traditions are numerous and constituent of the work, though the installations address contemporary issues and notably the themes of time and the human condition. This link between ancient and current China allows Liang Shaoji to mark his interest in lifecycles and the relationships sustained by man with nature.
Though he had already used fabric in his previous works, Liang Shaoji installed a silkworm farm in his studio at the end of the 1980’s and so began a different creative process. Breeding his own silk worms, he experimented and observed their way of living. He allowed them to weave their threads around found objects chosen for the composition of his works. This choice of integrating the work done by silk worms into his installations and performances is also a way for the artist to address our relationship with time, since silk worms spin their threads up until they die, but only for a period of fifteen days twice a year. Most of these works are entitled “Nature Series”. They explore shapes and matter and are strongly anchored in space. Each work starts with an initial piece and continues to multiply through the years to create a whole made up of objects produced at different times. The psychological rupture experienced in China at the beginning of the 1990’s is seen in Liang Shaoji’s works through their ambivalent character. This ambivalence reflects man’s desire to want to conquer and discipline nature while seeking at the same time to get closer to it and protect it.
The symbolism that comprises these works is very present. In order to fully understand each work, one must first acquire knowledge of the meaning of these elements within Chinese tradition and imagination. With silk, Liang Shaoji is using a procedure that is likewise found to be one of the ancient Chinese symbols and thus opens a new “silk route”. Silk thread also embodies a duality, being both very solid in spite of its impalpable character and also very fragile. In China, the silkworm symbolises generosity, warmth, life and endurance. The artist uses this symbolism to counterbalance the violence and cruelty that the rusted metallic objects and industrial waste refer to that he uses in his works as in Helmets (Nature series no. 102) for example, which is an installation of about thirty miner’s helmets enveloped by threads of silk. They were made in memory of the miners who have died in numerous accidents that have taken place in China in recent years.
Bamboo is another recurring element, which in China represents integrity and rigour. The words candle and bamboo have the same sound in Chinese and for this reason the artist has chosen to associate them in an installation entitled Candles (Nature Series no. 87). The installation is comprised of pieces of bamboo that have been partially filled with candle wax while certain are covered with silk threads as a homage to the celebrated poem of Li Shangyin (813-853) who compared the last drop of the candle to the silk worm’s last breath. The work symbolises giving and generosity through the association of the candle and the silk as each person has their way of giving right up until their demise, their life’s last breath. The path of candles also recalls the way Buddhists place candles in front of an altar, or the alignment of candles that one finds on tombs to commemorate the dead.
One of the major works of this exhibition entitled The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Nature series no. 79) is made of heavy, rough chain, held by silk strands and suspended from the ceiling. Liang Shaoji created this installation in 2002 after having read Milan Kundera’s eponymous novel. These chains, which appear to be very heavy, are in fact made of polyester and so are very light.
Born in 1945, Liang Shaoji is a graduate from the Fine Arts and Arts Academy of Zhejiang. He lives and works in Linhai. His works have been exhibited internationally and notably in numerous biennials and triennials – Venice (1999), Istanbul (1999), Lyon (2000) Shanghai (2000, 2006) among others.