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Motif and Material  素-材

Cai Lei,Shen Liang, Wang Jun, Wang Ningde, Yan Bing, Zang Kunkun

3.20 - 4.22, 2017

Hong Kong

During Art Basel Hong Kong 2017, Tang Contemporary Art’s Hong Kong space will present an exhibition of six Chinese contemporary artists: Cai Lei, Shen Liang, Wang Jun, Wang Ningde, Yan Bing, and Zang Kunkun. Entitled “Motif and Material” and curated by noted curator Bao Dong, the show will open on March 20th, presenting the artists’ conscious mastery of the thematic or formal links between their materials, media, and artworks, links which have become the core of their artistic ideas. The artworks span painting, sculpture, installation, and photography, with many of the artists taking multi-media and interdisciplinary approaches.


The word “素材” (pronounced “sucai”, now commonly translated as “source material”) originally meant “motif,” the basic elements, subject matter, or theme of a piece of art or design. In contemporary artistic practice, this traditional idea is still relevant, and many artists have developed their artistic languages and working methods based on their own motifs. Thus, discussions of artists’ methodologies inevitably touch upon their artistic motifs, especially if we want to analyze the implicit relationship between motifs and methods.


Thus, this exhibition has borrowed on this traditional idea of sucai and divided it into “Motif” (factors, elements) and “Material” (substance, media). This stresses thematic elements and artistic media, in order to discuss the artists’ conscious mastery of the thematic or formal links between their materials, media, and artworks. Cai Lei’s sculptures are the combination of the material of concrete and the experience of space. Shen Liang’s painterly conceptions are revealed in the meticulous depictions of small objects, while Wang Jun manages the dual status of the painted object and the painting as object. Wang Ningde deconstructs and reconstructs the relationships between photography’s materiality and technique, and between its social and documentary qualities. Yan Bing’s work combines country mud and modern objects in daily life, and Zang Kunkun intervenes in the relationship between the objects inside the paintings and the objects outside the paintings.


In the work of these artists, materials and methods do not exist outside of subject matter, having an aesthetic and conceptual value that is constructed together with the theme. Their artistic practices echo their experiences, and more importantly, re-stimulate the activity of their respective artistic categories.





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Cai Lei

Cai Lei

Naked 170317 Cement 44.5 x 31 x 18 cm 2017

Shen Liang

Shen Liang

2015 No.8 Propylene, lead powder on paper 206 x 182 cm 2015

Wang Jun

Wang Jun

Untitled - Blue Acrylic on canvas 200 x 150 cm 2016

Wang Ningde

Wang Ningde

Tangible Light - Water Pattern 27 Acrylic, honeycomb aluminum, transparent light box 144 x 105 x 5cm 2016

Yan Bing

Yan Bing

Wind-Aridity electric fan mud 134 x 42 cm 2010

Zang Kunkun

Zang Kunkun

Prospect VI Acrylic on canvas 155 x 230 cm 2016


BAO DONG (curator)


Bao Dong is an art critic and independent curator based in Beijing. In contributing essays to the artistic dialogue and other forms of involvement, Bao has established himself as a leading curator and critic of work by the new generation. His articles have been widely published in art journals and artist monographs both at home and abroad. He has curated many exhibitions for a wide range of art institutions including Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, the Art Center of Chulalongkorn University, Guangdong Times Museum, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, etc. He was awarded the Asian Cultural Council (ACC) fellowship grant in 2014, and became a nominee of Independent Curators International’s (ICI) 2014 Independent Vision Curatorial Award. In 2014, he initiated and co-founded the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art Studies, an annual academic publication with a special focus on facilitating alliance among art professionals and non-profit art institutions across the country.  




b.1983  Changchun, Jilin Province, China


Cai Lei’s works explore the relationship between illusion and space. From his interest in planarity, he carves out an illusory conceptual space which oscillates between the second and third dimension for his creations. Working in both painting and mixed media sculptural relief, light plays an important factor in enhancing this illusion of depth. Painted spaces of interior hallways or corners simultaneously protrude and recede depending on the viewer’s experience of the work.  


Cai Lei was born in 1983 and graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sculpture at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing. An award winning young artist from the ‘80s generation, he has exhibited internationally including the Yangtze Art Museum (Chongqing), Foundation Taylor (Paris), CAFA Museum (Beijing), Poly Art Museum (Beijing), Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art (USA), Today Art Museum (Beijing), and Museum of Contemporary Art Bonn (Germany). 




b.1976  Liaoning, China


Shen Liang entered the China Central Academy’s Affiliated School of Fine Art at the age of 16. He then continued studying in CAFA’s Oil Painting Department, from which he received his undergraduate and master’s degrees. Since graduating in 2003, Shen has participated in many important exhibitions at institutions, galleries and art expos in China and abroad.


His work has been collected by the Seattle Art Museum, White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney, National Art Museum of China, Mountain Art Foundation in Beijing, and the CAFA Art Museum. Since his first solo exhibition at the L.A. Galerie in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2005, Shen has held solo exhibitions at the Goedhuis Contemporary gallery in New York; Today Art Museum, Space Station gallery and Hiveart gallery in Beijing, and at galleries in Seoul and Berlin. He currently lives and works in Beijing.




b.1974  Chongqing, China


Wang Jun is one of the best explorers of the younger generation. Over the past few years, Wang has been experimenting with the adventures of the visual structure, attempting to destroy the structure of the image and create new ways of observe.  Different from other abstract paintings, each new work of Wang Jun is based on a pictorial landscape photograph, a section of a hand, or even a sentence in the report of his work. After long-term repeated painting, covering, and reconstruction, finally become an abstract, but visible, pure visual rhythm.




b.1972  Liaoning, China


Wang Ningde was graduated from the photography department of the Lu Xun Academy of Art in 1995. After graduating, he moved to southern China where he worked for a decade as a photojournalist during the period of China’s explosive economic and cultural transformation. Departing from documentary photography, Wang returned to his northern hometown to began his Some Days series, which he worked on between 1999 and 2009. With his striking black and white photographs, the artist has been able to capture the tension between an ever-changing contemporary China and the always-present memory of the Cultural Revolution.


As an artist who works not only in traditional photography but also more recently in video and installation artwork, Wang Ningde attempts to decipher and answer the unanswerable, peeling back the layers of memory and the social facade, to probe and expose the more complicated and perhaps disconcerting issues of a personal past or humanity’s collective psyche. Wang Ningde lives and works in Beijing.




b.1980  Tianshui, Gansu, China


Yan Bing is known for his ingenious use of ordinary, even mundane and rough materials. What lies underneath the surface of the ordinary is the warmth and depth of his perception towards life. Emotions revealed in Yan’s works are complicated: the longing for simplicity and plainness in mixed with speculative contemplation and joyful bitterness. Overwhelmed by a sense of “classic aesthetics”, Yan’s work radiates insightful reflection upon and exploration into individual experience in the contemporary context.





b.1986  Qingdao, China


Born in Qingdao and graduated from the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts in 2008. As one of the young artists in late 80s, Zang Kunkun’s works is difficult to define. "Neutral, objective, calm" should be his default expression. The uniqueness, classic, exquisite and the spiritual are the reasons Zang concerned about the classic theme. His works have been collected by Well - known institutions such as the MOCA Art Museum in Singapore and the M + Art Museum in Hong Kong.


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