Li Gang
"Li Gang"

November 5, 2016 - February 19, 2017
Opening: Saturday, November 5, 2016; 4 - 6pm


Li Gang

Desserts, 2015, detail
plaster, rebar, hair, discarded kettles and pots
32 pcs, size vary from 43 x 30 x 30 cm to 85 x 78 x 78 cm



Li Gang
Li Gang

2016 (english)

Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to announce the opening of Li Gang, the fifth solo exhibition by Chinese artist Li Gang (b. 1986 in Dali, Yunnan Province, China). The exhibition’s works are divided into two main categories: paintings and sculptures. The entire exhibition revolves around ‘the aesthetics of imperfection’ as a tone and starting point.

Li Gang’s artistic practice originated in painting, and the language he has developed is unique. It travels between the figurative and the abstract and hides the ontological point that the artist started from: a deep ref lection on the existence of painting itself. In the Oil Painting series (Oil Painting, 2016, oil on hand-made canvas, 125 x 122 cm), the artist attempts to let painting return to its original form through deconstruction and reconstruction. This is to both discover new possibilities for drawing and also emphasize the composition of oil paint itself. Limited by neither creative theme nor approach, it is the main method of the artist’s long-term in-depth exploration of painting’s boundaries. The show will include a number of his recent paintings.

Sculpture is the second main category of Li Gang’s artistic expressions. He experiments with diverse materials that often carry specific meaning in traditional Chinese culture. By playing with materials and techniques the artist creates autonomous, abstract sculptures.

Among other sculptures in the exhibition, the Gravity series (Gravity 6, 2016, jade bracelets, steel tubes, 350 x 91 x 75 cm) is about seeing and capturing male-female relationships within a population of migrants. Working in jade and steel, the artist obfuscates the normal functional purposes of the materials, instead emphasizing that the two materials together constitute a unique aesthetic. The work is a realization of the artist’s pursuit of a realistic means of metaphoric expression.

To create Dessert (2015, plaster, rebar, hair, discarded kettles and pots, 32 pcs, sizes vary from 43 x 30 x30 cm to 85 x 78 x 78 cm), Li Gang used human hair and plaster, as well as the discarded kettles and pots of migrant workers. In fact, he combined a diverse array of materials and items that migrants use in their daily life. The connection of human hair – in this case the artist collected hair from the migrants – and plaster is a technique traditionally used to stabilize walls. While plaster gives the f lexibility to create any kind of shape, the hair is used to stabilize and avoid cracks. These unexpected material combinations reach not only a singular beauty, but an immediate ref lection of the artist’s understanding of reality.

False or True
(2014-2016, 220 x 122 x 122 cm (machine); 12 x 16 x 16 cm (sculpture 1); 16 x 23 x 17 cm (sculpture 2); 24 x 26 x 23 cm (sculpture 3); 19 x 25 x 15 cm (sculpture 4)) is an experimental work that explores aura and space. The artist uses mechanical principles to collect water from the air of the spaces. Water droplets that form from the air are collected by gypsum cement powder. They then solidify arbitrarily into different spatial sculptures according to the rate at which the water drips. This is how he achieves the visualization of auras. On the exhibition’s opening day, this machine, designed by the artist, will operate and create in real-time.

Li Gang was born in Dali, Yunnan Province in 1986 and studied oil painting at Yunnan Dali Academy in Dali, as well as art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts’ Department of Experimental Art in Beijing. His recent  exhibitions include: Inventing Ritual, Louis Vuitton Foundation Museum, Paris, France (2016); CONFRONTING ANITYA Oriental Experience in Contemporary Art, Gasometer Kulturzentrum, Liechtenstein (2016); and Inside China: L’Intérieur du Géant, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2014) which then toured to K11 Art Foundation Pop-up Space in Hong Kong and chi K11 art museum in Shanghai in 2015. In addition, he has also participated in inf luential biennials including The 6th Moscow Biennial (2015) and The 3rd Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art (2015).


Hu Qingyan
"空壳 Hollow Husk"

November 18, 2016 - January 28, 2017
Opening: Friday, November 18, 2016; 6 - 8pm


Hu Qingyan

The Falling Flesh, 2015 (detail)
oil on canvas
210 x 75 x 90 cm



Hu Qingyan
空壳 Hollow Husk

2016 (english)

Sculpture is the most daring and audacious of all expressive media; it begins by deconstructing something that already exists as a unique presence in nature in order to construct a mental projection that exists in the mind of the artist first, and then in the most fortunate cases, in the mind of the viewer. However, it is nevertheless destined to be a fragment lost in time and space struggling to return to that initial unity. The work of Hu Qingyan (b. 1982 in Weifang, Shandong Province, China, lives and works in Beijing), presented in 空壳Hollow Husk, his most recent solo exhibition, is far from what we traditionally conceive as sculpture, but it is a reflection on the language of sculpture when considered as space at large, and on how sculpture and space, in and out—entities that are often deemed complementary—interact with each other, nurturing and inspiring each other. The artist takes on a peculiar yet risky task; he makes his gestures as unobtrusive as possible and reduces his volition to a minimum, perhaps because he regards them as a sort of disturbing, unnecessary force exerted on something that already exists in its primordial, ideal shape and that just needs the right conditions to come to life.

The diverse and varied pieces on view perfectly reflect the multiple trajectories taken by Hu Qingyan’s working ethos over the last few years; the planned, calculated element often gives way to the unplanned, to a sort of extemporization contingent upon the materials employed and their intrinsic value, rather than the uniqueness of the manual gesture and of the conceptual input provided by the artist (Seven-Character Quatrain 3 and Seven-Character Poem (2015 and 2016, rebar, 28 resp. 56 pcs., sizes vary from 15 x 9 x 4 cm to 69 x 23 x 10 cm)).

The genesis of the works in the series Go in One Ear and Out the Other (2016, carbon steel, air) or Nothing but You Can Put at Home (2016, carbon steel, car paint) epitomize this practice. In Go in One Ear and Out the Other, the outline of the system of carbon steel tubes diameter reductions is firstly defined by the found material employed and secondly by the hand of the artist’s assistant who was responsible for defining everything including the size of the work. The artist’s input was to decide at what point the evolving shape should be considered a “final” one; however, the term “final” should not be read as “fixed,” because the obtained shape is just one of the steps in the series of metamorphoses that shapes and spaces can undergo, crystallized in time by pure chance. This approach is not new to Hu, because he has also used it in the ongoing series Narrative by a Pile of Clay (2013-2015, c-prints, different sets of 40 photos, each 20 x 30 cm), a work on which the artist has worked since 2013. It perfectly reflects the paradox dominating a sculptor’s life, which is caught in the incessant yet necessary balancing of the acts of construction and deconstruction. Nothing but You Can Put at Home pushes the line even further; the physical found object that the artist has painted becomes a pretext for raising questions that investigate the semantics of art-making and the identity of the art maker himself. Painting and The Falling Flesh (2015, oil on canvas, 223 x 120 x 90 cm) subtly yet ironically investigate the essence of painting and sculpture by playing visual tricks on the viewer, through what may be a painting disguised as a sculpture (a sculptural painting) or a sculpture disguised as a painting (a painterly sculpture), both painted and sculpted by chance.

Apparently totemic pieces like Idiots No. 2 (2016, carbon steel, air, 7 pcs, height from 79 cm to 188 cm) and Airhead No. 2 (2016, carbon steel, air, 53 x 252 x 53 cm) turn out to be exactly what their titles suggest: remnants, hollow husks, hollow vessels deprived of any specific function other than being air containers about to be processed or informed once again. They have no aura or majesty other than that of being living, expanding organisms; this is because of the internal circulation of air, not what the artist’s hand has created,  a mere shell whose signs of assemblage are still visible. This prompts the viewer to think, or at least doubt, that the real sculpture is not the exterior, but what is invisible and being “shaped” inside the shells.

Hu Qingyan was born in 1982 in Weifang, Shandong Province, China and studied sculpture at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in Guangzhou and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He lives and works in Beijing and Jinan. A selection of his most recent exhibitions includes: Shut up and paint, National Gallery of Vitoria, Melbourne, Australia (2016); The Exhibition of Annual of Contemporary Art of China, Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing, China (2016); M + Sigg Collection: Four Decades of Chinese Contemporary Art, ArtisTree, Hong Kong, China (2016); Familiar Otherness: Art Across Northeast Asia, Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong, China (2015); 28 Chinese, Rubell Family Collection/ Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami, USA (2013); 中 (Middle), Not Vital Foundation, Ardez, Switzerland (2013); Building Bridges – Zeitgenössische Kunst aus China, Wolfsberg, Ermatingen, Switzerland (2013); Starting – Youth Artists Introducing Plan by China Sculpture Institute, Today Art Museum/China Sculpture Institute, Beijing, China (2012).

Text: Manuela Lietti



2016 (deutsch)

Von allen expressiven Medien ist die Bildhauerei am kühnsten und gewagtesten: ihr Ausgangspunkt ist, etwas zu dekonstruieren, das bereits als einzigartige Erscheinung in der Natur existiert, um daraus eine mentale Projektion zu erschaffen, die zunächst nur im Geist des Künstlers und dann, in den glücklicheren Fällen, auch im Geist des Betrachters entsteht. Dennoch hat das Ergebnis das Schicksal eines in Zeit und Raum verlorenen Fragments, das danach strebt, zu dieser ursprünglichen Einheit zurückzugelangen. Das Werk von Hu Qingyan (geb. 1982 in Weifang, Provinz Shandong/China, lebt und arbeitet in Beijing), präsentiert in seiner jüngsten Einzelausstellung 空壳Hollow Husk, ist weit entfernt von dem, was wir für gewöhnlich als Bildhauerei ansehen, doch betrachtet man seine Arbeiten als gesamthaften Raum, sind es Betrachtungen über die Sprache der Bildhauerei und darüber, wie die Skulptur und der Raum, als Hinein und Hinaus – häufig wie einander ergänzend scheinende Konzepte – interagieren und sich gegenseitig nähren und inspirieren. Der Künstler stellt sich hier einer ganz eigenen, aber auch riskanten Aufgabe: er macht seine Gesten so unauffällig wie möglich und reduziert seine Willensäusserung auf ein Minimum, vielleicht weil sie ihm vorkommt wie eine irgendwie störende, unnötige Kraft, die auf etwas ausgeübt wird, das schon in seiner absolut idealen Urform vorliegt und nur die richtigen Bedingungen braucht, um lebendig zu werden.

Die verschiedenen und sehr unterschiedlichen gezeigten Werke spiegeln die vielfältigen Bahnen, die Hu Qingyans Arbeitsethos im Laufe der letzten Jahre genommen hat; das gezielte, kalkulierte Element weicht da oft dem Ungeplanten, einer Art Improvisation, die eher abhängig ist von den verwendeten Materialien und deren immanentem Wert und weniger von der Einzigartigkeit der durch den Künstler beigesteuerten manuellen Geste und seinem konzeptuellen Input, siehe etwa Seven-Character Quatrain 3 und Seven-Character Poem (2015 und 2016, Armierungseisen, 28 resp. 56 Stücke in Grössen zwischen 15 x 9 x 4 cm bis 69 x 23 x 10 cm).

Die Entstehung der Arbeiten in der Serie Go in One Ear and Out the Other (2016, C Stahl und Luft) oder Nothing but You Can Put It Up at Home (2016, C Stahl, Autolack) versinnbildlichen dieses Verfahren. In Go in One Ear and Out the Other werden die Konturen eines Systems aus Baustahl- Durchmesserreduktionen  zunächst einmal durch das verwendete matériel trouvé und zweitens durch die Hand des Assistenten des Künstlers definiert, der für sämtliche Entscheidungen verantwortlich war, einschliesslich der Grösse der Arbeit. Der Beitrag von Hu Qingyan selbst bestand in der Entscheidung, an welchem Punkt die sich entwickelnde Form als «abgeschlossen» zu betrachten war; allerdings sollte «abgeschlossen» hier nicht im Sinne von «endgültig» gelesen werden, denn die erhaltene Form ist nur eine der vielen Stufen in der Serie von Metamorphosen, die Formen und Räume durchlaufen können, und sie werden durch puren Zufall in der Zeit kristallisiert. Dieser Ansatz ist Hu nicht neu, verwendete er ihn doch auch schon in der laufenden Serie Narrative by a Pile of Clay (2013–2015, C Prints, unterschiedliche Sets von je 40 Fotos, alle 20 x 30 cm), eine Arbeit, die den Künstler seit 2013 beschäftigt. Sie widerspiegelt perfekt das Paradox, von dem das Leben eines Bildhauers beherrscht ist und das in dem ständigen und doch notwendigen Balanceakt zwischen dem Konstruieren und Dekonstruieren besteht. Nothing but You Can Put It Up at Home treibt dies noch mehr auf die Spitze: das physisch gefundene Objekt, das der Künstler dann lackiert hat, wird zum Vorwand für das Aufwerfen von Fragen, die die Semantik der Kunstproduktion und die Identität des Kunstproduzenten selbst analysieren. Painting (2016, Acryl auf Leinwand, 120 x 2600 cm) und The Falling Flesh (2015, Öl auf Leinwand, 223 x 120 x 90 cm) untersuchen auf subtile und doch ironische Art das Wesen von Malerei und Bildhauerei, indem sie dem Betrachter visuelle Tricks unterjubeln und ein als Skulptur getarntes Bild zeigen (ein skulpturales Gemälde) oder eben eine als Bild getarnte Skulptur (eine malerische Skulptur), beide gemalt und geformt durch den Zufall.

Scheinbar totemische Arbeiten wie Idiots No. 2 (2016, C Stahl und Luft, 7 Stücke in Höhen von 79 bis 188 cm) und Airhead No. 2 (2016, C Stahl und Luft, 53 x 252 x 53 cm) erweisen sich als genau das, was ihre Titel suggerieren: als Überbleibsel, leere Hüllen, hohle Gefässe bar jeder speziellen Funktion, ausser eben als luftgefüllte Behälter, die es neuerlich zu bearbeiten oder zu erfüllen gilt. Sie strahlen keine Aura oder Majestät aus bis auf jene von lebenden, expandierenden Organismen; das aber liegt an der internen Luftzirkulation und nicht an dem, was die Künstlerhand geschaffen hat: blosse Schalen, die noch deutliche Spuren des  Zusammenfügens zeigen. Dies veranlasst den Betrachter zu überlegen (zumindest sich zu fragen), ob die wahre Skulptur nicht in dem äusserlich zu Sehenden, sondern im Unsichtbaren liegen mag, das im Inneren dieser Schalen «geformt» wird.

Hu Qingyan wurde 1982 in Weifang, Provinz Shandong/China geboren und studierte Bildhauerei an der Hochschule der Künste in Guangzhou und an der Zentralen Kunstakademie in Beijing. Er lebt und arbeitet in Beijing und Jinan. Eine Auswahl seiner letzten Ausstellungen umfasst: Shut up and paint, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne/Australien (2016); The Exhibition of Annual of Contemporary Art of China, Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing/China (2016); M + Sigg Collection: Four Decades of Chinese Contemporary Art, ArtisTree, Hong Kong/China (2016); Familiar Otherness: Art Across Northeast Asia, Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong/China (2015); 28 Chinese, Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami/USA (2013); 中 (Middle), Not Vital Foundation, Ardez/Schweiz (2013); Building Bridges – Zeitgenössische Kunst aus China, Wolfsberg, Ermatingen/Schweiz (2013); Starting – Youth Artists Introducing Plan by China Sculpture Institute, Today Art Museum/China Sculpture Institute, Beijing/China (2012).

Text: Manuela Lietti
Übersetzung: Werner Richter