Tang Contemporary Art is excited to announce a new female group exhibition at our Hong Kong gallery space, titled “A Room of One’s Own” and opening on June 22. The show will display more than twenty magnificent works by five young female artists, including Ding Hongdan, Li Muhua, Liu Youran, Wang Su, and Zhou Xinyu.
“A woman’s way to independence begins with a room of her own.”
– Adeline Virginia Woolf
As described by Hou Hanru in his publication Everyday Miracles, the modernization in China was rational, linear, rapid, vertical, progressive, efficient, and utopian – attributes which were once considered male-oriented because of the rigid, patriarchal hierarchies, subsequently coercing women into fixated gender stereotypes. Nevertheless, these characters mentioned by Hou are now demonstrated in women through the development of feminism, allowing them to rest and breathe amidst gender struggles, and to “reconstruct a room of one’s own”.
Since the 19th century when the awareness of women’s political participation started to grow in Britain thanks to the efforts by Emmeline Pankhurst, feminism has been able to manifest itself publicly. Ways to achieve individualism, diminish differentiation, and reconstruct a comfortable everyday space then become ensuing topics to be tackled. Economic independence, possession of a personal space, and the right to knowledge also became essential conditions for women to acquire a “social distance in modern terms” (Georg Simmel), as well as to enjoy fruitfulness in their spiritual life. In fact, women should also have the privilege to lead the others and handle situations. Female artists, likewise, transcend beyond the development of an “-ism” and focus instead on individuality and enriching their own “Memory Bank”. What is shared are life experiences, initiating sentimental revolutions and redefining heterogeneity – implementations outside of political means.
Nowadays, the “rhizome” in feminism is still under exploration, with diverse entries, exits, tunnels, veins, self-designed games, and escape routes. Crevices of naturalized feminism nourish cultural rooms and emotional caves, and not simply intellectual fortresses. According to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, the diverse and decentralized structures of natural caves can help more people find spiritual independence and models of self-governance, thereafter inspiring the stories of Mille Plateaux. The five young female artists in this group exhibition offer new connections and their own perspectives as women.
When the pandemic shrank her radius of activity, Ding Hongdan has grown increasingly focused on the fluid connection between reality and her own identity and gender, as well as the construction of humorous, uneasy, and absurd visions in her work. Her new works Desire No. 1 and Desire No. 2 are fantastical, idealized self-portraits. In contrast to previous “self-portraits” made by women artists, the figure in Desire No. 2 is male, but he connects to the artists’ female psychology. Cupid’s arrow and the forbidden fruit that Eve hands him from beyond the frame encourage and invite the brave confrontation of her own desires. In the paintings, Ding attempts to reshape the power dynamics in gender.
Li Muhua references remembered objects in her paintings. These objects, such as children’s books, bars of chocolate, letters, and doors, are products of memory – though not singular or specific as they are either found online or referenced from objects she has encountered in the course of her life. The rigorous, restrained lines and blocks of color provide a silent sense of order, and the compositions have a neo-classical dignity and exquisite balance. Li fills entire paintings with small objects from daily life. When filled with standalone images of objects, the paintings themselves become objects, and seem to take on their weight and texture. Through resembling reality, the paintings establish a surreal relationship between the viewer and the object.
Liu Youran attempts to unearth feminine ways of looking and the predicaments in real life. Women often actively or passively split themselves into two connected yet opposing identities: observer and the observed. She uses spaces from classic ukiyo-e that once held prostitutes or actresses to guide the viewer’s thinking. In her Display and Room series, Liu consciously adds distance between the figures and situates them in closed spaces, in order to highlight the status of these women as objects. The women in the paintings appear contented and comfortable, but they are searching for an internally consistent compromise in a passive world. Her surrealist painting language blurs spatio-temporal boundaries and the logical constraints of reality, thereby creating softer metaphors.
By magnifying microcosms, Wang Su manifests a deep desire to perceive all things in the natural world. A noble symmetry gives natural things more dignity and decorum, which inject a precious conviction into the images. She understands that she is connected to every tree and blade of grass, and she finds a broad, romantic power in their subtleties. She is fascinated by richly layered things, and her stratified style and deep, passionate colors seem to interpret mystical laws and help a primeval vitality to break through. She paints the vital force and vivid blossoming of all things in colors that slowly flow from her subconsciousness. Wang has the spirit of a naturalist, which is closely related to her life overseas and her own experiences of nature.
The explorations in Zhou Xinyu’s “blue paintings” are profound. The melancholy of the blue is always close at hand, following us in our difficult moments with an existentialist sensibility. Inspired by distorted video or fragments of light and shadow, she focuses on fleeting things and women’s sense of their own fragility. The estrangement evoked by the figures in Zhou’s paintings mingles with stagnant emotions and cool gazes. The visual centers of the works are always symbolic gestures, which articulate the woman’s inner monologue and become totemic. We can sense the visual oppressiveness of a pair of folded hands or a tightened jaw. Zhou said, “By constantly deepening that sense of stillness, all of the brushwork in the image seems to be tied there.”
June 11, 2022
Liu Youran The Fourth Actor under the Cherry Tree Oil and acrylic on canvas 130 x 150 cm 2022
Liu Youran Peep, 6：07AM Oil and acrylic on canvas 140 x 120cm 2022
Liu Youran Peep, 4：09AM Oil and acrylic on canvas 140 x 120 cm 2022
Liu Youran 1：12AM, Room101 Oil and acrylic on canvas 175 x 160 cm 2021
Liu Youran Box, 8：27PM Oil and acrylic on canvas 150 x 130 cm 2021
Liu Youran Bath, 10：29PM Oil and acrylic on canvas 190 x 230 cm 2022
Wang Su Grass on the Brows Oil on canvas 60 x 50cm 2022
Wang Su Vigorous Blue of the Sleeping Sun Oil on canvas 150 x 138 cm 2020
Wang Su Battlefield Oil on canvas 120 x 130 cm 2021
Wang Su Shadow and Water from the Nameless Flower Oil on canvas 150 x 138 cm 2021
Wang Su Untitled Oil on canvas 15 x 20 cm 2021
Wang Su Become Water Oil on canvas 60 x 50 cm 2022
Zhou Xinyu April 5th Acrylic, oil painting stick on wood 150 x 120cm 2022
Zhou Xinyu Lose Sleep Acrylic, oil painting stick on wood 120 x 120cm 2022
Zhou Xinyu Blue Earrings Acrylic, oil painting stick on wood 150 x 120 cm 2022
Zhou Xinyu Shadow Acrylic, oil painting stick on wood 150 x 120 cm 2022
Li Muhua The Door Oil on woodboard 60 x 30 cm 2021
Li Muhua A Piece of Chocolate Oil on woodboard 55 x 80 cm 2021
Li Muhua A Piece of Chocolate Oil on woodboard 18 x 14 cm 2019
Li Muhua Aesop's Fables Oil on woodboard 82 x 55 cm 2020 - 2022
Li Muhua A Frog with a Fox Oil and acrylic on canvas 100 x 80 cm 2021
Li Muhua Aesop's Fables Oil on canvas 70 x 55 cm 2020 - 2022
Li Muhua Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales Oil on woodboard 120 x 90 cm 2022
Li Muhua An Envelope Oil on canvas 25 x 35 cm 2020
Li Muhua An Envelope Oil on woodboard 30 x 60 cm 2020
Ding Hongdan Desire No.1 Oil on canvas 86 x 70cm 2022
Ding Hongdan Desire No.2 Oil on canvas 130 x 100 cm 2022