Wang Xingwei
Caochangdi: "Shenyang Night"
798: "The Code of Physiognomy"

798 gallery
21.3.- 12.5. 2019
Opening: Thursday, March 21, 2019, 4 - 6.30pm

Caochangdi gallery
21.3.- 31.3. 2019
Opening: Thursday, March 21, 2019, 2.30pm

Wang Xingwei

Unfaithful Lover, 2017
oil on canvas
150 x 200 cm



Wang Xingwei
The Code of Physiognomy


2019 (english) 


Galerie Urs Meile is honored to announce the opening of The Code of Physiognomy, the solo exhibition by Wang Xingwei (*1969, Shenyang, China) at our gallery space in 798. The exhibition will present the main body of works Wang has painted since his last solo exhibition in 2016. Since 2008, the principle of plastic art has always been underlined, as the inherent structure of the pictorial language and its form has always been the artist's emphasis. In his recent practices, however, this principle seems to have given way to the characteristic and detailed shaping of images and figures. The body of works turns its focus to various forms of portraiture loaded with referential symbols and playful metaphors, which allude to the title of the exhibition-are we able to decipher the code? Do we accept the challenge to unlock the myth hidden behind each physiognomy?

In the gallery’s main space, the audience is first confronted with Noon Break (2017 - 2019, oil on canvas, 4x 200 x 240 cm), a significant work consisting of four single panels, each of which is an essential part of the integrated narrative and composition. The work is considered an outgrowth of Wang Xingwei’s Japanese Soldiers series themed on the often over-the-top television dramas set in World War II, which feature vivid descriptions and pictures of negative images like “Japanese Devils” and Chinese traitors. That painting series culminated in Honor and Disgrace, his previous solo show. Here again the artist shows his extraordinary plot-weaving abilities and the habitual nature of role-playing. What distinguishes Noon Break from the previous series is his more realistic approach. Japanese Soldiers applied reduced shapes and perspective to create a comic-like style. In this way the artist’s focus was shifted to grammatical, structural, and organizational aspects of the language of painting. The composition, use of color, nature of space and physical objects was brought from the background of the painting’s realization to center stage. Yet simplified motifs are often more indicative and straightforward in illustration, which can often lead them to be more subjective, even judgmental in a sense. Noon Break brings in enough details and visual components to block the bridge connecting words and their semantic meaning, considering art is also a language. The repetitive imagery of Japanese soldiers being arranged in a peaceful summer noon, together with the inopportune title of “Noon Break,” keep pushing the boundary for the audience to break any association an image could bring.

There is no difficulty catching the strong desire for expression and storytelling in Wang Xingwei’s painting. Toying with disconnected elements, dismantling the acknowledged logic of thinking, and fabricating domestic incidents into his personal fantasies have always been winning strategies for Wang Xingwei since the beginning of his artistic journey. In Four Seasons (2016/2017, oil on canvas, 4x 240 x 200 cm), four portraits feature four disgraced top government officials of the Chinese Communist Party, whose names are so notoriously well known by Chinese households that they are recognized almost immediately. Metaphorically introduced, each portrait was given an emotional state and a specific season. The four portraits correspond with and supplement each other in multiple ways, such as the figures’ identities, composition, and the motif of seasonal progression from spring to summer, fall and winter. The viewer can enjoy figuring out all the layers of intellectual complexity and obscure quotations, or feel content with an uncommon or audaciously visual feel. Surely if we examine the imagery of Four Seasons closely, we will find certain figurative elements that have repeatedly appeared in his previous works, such as the yellow-colored short bush framing a rectangular pit around the protagonist of the spring portrait, and a forest of white birch trees in the winter portrait. Here, however, they have been transformed in different colors or techniques. This reveals another topic of Wang Xingwei’s approach—squeezing out value from form, and conducting research on shape, volume, and painting technique until certain forms are incorporated into his pictorial meta-language, which he then continuously perfects over the years and develops into a highly sophisticated and personal “visual dictionary.”

This applies also to the other works shown in this exhibition, such as The Encounter of Life (2018, oil on canvas, 240 x 200 cm), Unfaithful Lover (2017, oil on canvas, 150 x 200 cm) and Auntumn (2018, oil on canvas, 160 x 240 cm), which, together with many others, create an ever-increasing and self-referencing system where the figurative elements in Wang Xingwei’s paintings could be released from their original context, becoming a sort of “aesthetic subject.” The artist thus gains ultimate freedom in choosing what goes into his paintings as long as he sees how to fit them into his narratives and fabrications. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that it is a delight to look at Wang Xingwei’s paintings. The chromatic juxtapositions are often daring, almost like visual gymnastics for audience. His construction is always perfect, both balanced and harmonious. He employs meticulous efforts and precision to visualize the settings in each of his paintings, a strategy that enriches their pictorial content and heightens the overall visual appeal. The artist is forever driven subconsciously by a longing for a kind of classic and timeless quality in his work.

A catalogue published by the gallery will accompany the exhibition. Parallel to The Code of PhysiognomyShenyang Night, a special solo exhibition by Wang Xingwei, will open on the same day in Galerie Urs Meile’s former exhibition space in Caochangdi, which accommodates the artist-in-residence program of the gallery.



Artist's Note of the progress of the painting Shenyang Night


Wang Xingwei
Shenyang Night


2019 (english) 


Galerie Urs Meile is honored to announce the opening of Shenyang Night, a solo exhibition by Wang Xingwei (*1969, Shenyang, China) in our former gallery space in Caochangdi, which accommodates the artist-in-residence program at the moment. The exhibition will take place concurrently with the Gallery Weekend Beijing 2019 (March 21–31).

The eponymous work, Shenyang Night (2018, oil on canvas, 300 x 500 cm), forms the centerpiece of the show. A monumental piece depicting a historically tinted cityscape of Shenyang, including the TV tower, the cross bridge (one of the earliest cross bridges in Shenyang) and the Exhibition Center, all landmarks of the city. Set in twilight, a gloomy scene unfolds and takes us back into the boisterous China of the 1980s. At first sight, one might presume a group of youths expressing their disappointment about a loss by their favorite football team. Upon closer inspection, symbolic objects of protest reveal themselves— a red flag seemingly set on fire, the awkwardly placed roadblock, the resigning fire hydrant, a No U-Turn sign (which was the key visual of the momentous China / Avant-Garde art exhibition held at the National Art Museum of China in 1989). The figure of “Wang Xingwei” refers to a photo of the artist himself in 1990, with a facial expression that only people in that period of time have, often characterized by a strong sentimental feeling, an awakened self-awareness, and a tendency towards hypocrisy. The young artist’s bold yet fragile naked torso appears even more vulnerable in the light of the brutal high-voltage system about to crush the young man’s body. The figure in front wearily leaning against the roadblock is in fact a realistic portrait of a friend of the artist from that time—an idealistic, poetic but also athletic person with a perfect body and sculpted muscles. Together with the two withdrawing figures on one edge of the painting and the fire hydrant on the other, a stable yet dynamic relationship is composed with the heroically enlightened figure of “Wang Xingwei” as the leading stage actor of a histrionic scene.

Wang Xingwei’s irreverent appropriation of visual references from both Chinese and Western art history has been a topic in his work since the beginning of his career. Years of exploring and experimenting with these references allowed him to build up his very own visual vocabulary. In Shenyang Night, he deliberately borrowed from German Romanticist Casper David Friedrich’s style of delicately illustrated and painterly descriptions, while having symbolic meanings at the same time. The rather “flat” composition with a dark and reduced background drawing attention to the scene at front stage may allude to influence of French Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David.

The far-reaching incidents in 1989 were the only social event that the artist experienced himself. He has long harbored the desire to translate these sentiments he and his friends held. Looking at the symbolic complexity, the ambitious composition or the imposing dimensions of the painting, the viewer can gain a sense of the complexity of this period of time, especially for a group of young artists. In fact the common theme of all the other works in the exhibition is the commemoration of the artist’s youth and the works completed between 1990 and 1993 in Shenyang. The bitter sweetness of youthful years, the reminiscence of a glorious past, the incurable romanticism and idealism are embodied in the artist’s self-portrait from his twenties (Self-portrait, 1990, oil on canvas, 47 x 37 cm) and the withering flowers (The Withering Flower, 1991, oil on canvas, 77.5 x 58.5 cm). Two reproductions of lost sketches from that period may indicate the irreversibility of these dramatic experiences. Wang Xingwei developed one of these sketches into My Beautiful Life (1993-1995, oil on canvas, 180 x 240 cm), while the other one was developed almost three decades later to Shenyang Night.

A catalogue published by the gallery will accompany the exhibition. Parallel to Shenyang Night, The Code of Physiognomy, another solo exhibition by Wang Xingwei, will open on the same day at our gallery space in 798.




Cao Yu
Femme Fatale

17.4.- 25.5. 2019
Opening: Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 5.30 - 7.30pm

Cao Yu

Kneeling Figure III,
124 x 85 x 12 cm


Cao Yu
Femme Fatale

2019 (english)

Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to present Cao Yu’s Femme Fatale, the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and her first solo exhibition in Europe.

Cao Yu continues to expand her oeuvre by presenting a new series of photographic works entitled Femme Fatale, which gave its title to the exhibition and is the artist’s first attempt at photography. The experimental nature of Cao Yu’s exhibitions stems from I Have an Hourglass Waist - the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery’s Beijing outpost. From video to sculpture, installation to work on canvas, and now photography, her multidisciplinary practice is crucial in challenging the perception of her surroundings, experiences and her role as an artist. Cao Yu’s interpretation is jarring and contemplative for both a new and familiar audience.

The exhibition features three larger-than-life, full-length photographic portraits from the Femme Fatale series (2019, Edition of 2 + 1 AP, c-print, each 250 x 140 cm). The golden frames accentuate their grandiose in a style that resembles eighteenth-century Regence frames often used for portraits of the French monarchs. Instead, Cao Yu’s subjects consist of ordinary, yet distinctive men of different classes caught in the action of urinating in public. Each man reveals his social class, be it the typical white-collar worker looking down at the ground, the drunker shouting and pointing at onlooker or the corporate executive with his head held up high. None appears to shy away from the gaze of a stranger. Their exhibitionist behaviors match uncannily well with those of the French monarchs. In the work Kneeling Figure (2018, canvas, each 134 x 84 x 12 cm), Cao Yu performs the act of kneeling - an ancient etiquette in the Chinese feudal system - on an empty canvas until the canvas is left with two concave voids. The viewers are absorbed by the traces of the artist’s action and baffled as to what is the artist kneeling for and to whom? The Femme Fatale series and the Kneeling Figure reconsider the struggle of power dynamics through time on issues relating to class, gender and tradition.

The exhibition will also present a new sculpture work, Yeah, I am Everywhere (2019, green marble, cast copper with 24k gold-plating, 2 pieces; 20 x 62 x 42 cm, 54 x 70 x 40 cm), and two marble sculptures: The World is Like This for Now II (2018, single long hair (the artist’s own), marble, 2 pieces; 96 x 59 x 50 cm, 73 x 65 x 30 cm) and 90°C IV (2019, marble, silk stocking, 56 x 46 x 36 cm). For the artist, stones like marble are usually perceived as lifeless, but she purposely inserts objects such as stockings and reproductions of human fingers to breathe life into these otherwise considered silent materials. They represent the ‘pressure in life’, states Cao Yu. For the new sculpture Yeah, I am Everywhere, the artist appropriates a set of green marbles whose color suggests the forthcoming spring. Rather than the wildflowers emerging from the greens of the blooming spring, Cao Yu implants ten gold plating finger shapes - modeled after the artist’s own fingers - onto the green marble. Just like the chaotic wildflowers, the golden fingers represent an infinite, vigorous growth that shines through despite constraints from the outside world, as if shouting “Yeah, I am Everywhere”. The marble sculpture series comments on the omnipresent burden in life but provides a different way of understanding our surrounding.

Cao Yu’s controversial video work Fountain - previously removed from her graduate show - will be presented with two video works titled I Have and The Labourer. The 11-minute-long video Fountain (2015, Edition of 10 + 2 AP, single channel HD video (colour, silent), 11’10”) depicts the artist using her own body as a performative tool to carry out a long and exhausting process of squeezing breast milk until her breasts run dry. The title of the work is a response to the often-masculine association in art history made with works such as Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) and Bruce Nauman’s Self-Portrait as a Fountain (1966-67). The work  I Have (2017, Edition of 6 + 2 AP, single channel HD video (colour, sound), 4’22’’) consists in the artist narrating to the camera while boasting all the positive and envy-inducing traits she claims to have, with each sentence starting with: “I have…”. The Labourer (2017, Edition of 6 + 2 AP,single channel HD video (colour, silent), 8’33”) portrays the act of kneading dough. Instead of using hands and water, the video shows the artist repetitively mixing the flour with her feet and her own urine. The Labourer offers stark visual contrast to the Femme Fatale photography series but shares reciprocal nuances. The gender reversal psychology in Cao Yu’s works is reminiscent of a 1906 silent comedy film Les Résultats du Féminisme (The Consequences of Feminism) by French female director Alice Guy, where gender roles have been inverted. It depicts men as child-carer in charge of the household while women drink at cafés while courting men. Cao Yu’s autobiographical video works reflect on the notion of gender and social stereotypes.

The exhibition greets visitors with an interactive installation on the gallery door handle. The work titled Perplexing Romance consists of yellow Vaseline smeared all over the door handle, towards which each visitor is compelled and tempted but simultaneously irritated by the “perplex” welcome. As one enters, a member of the gallery staff will provide visitors with tissues with the artist’s signature to rub their hands clean and then toss them away. Visitors are also encouraged to visit the gallery’s washroom as they will encounter a sound installation titled The Flesh Flavour (2017, Edition of 3 + 1 AP,sound, 13’13”). Composed of a random assortment of bizarre noises that emits recognizable sounds of chewing, sexual intercourses or skin being whipped all originating from an unknown corner of the room, this sound installation baffles visitors with contempt. Back in the gallery space, visitors are bound to access the main gallery space by stepping on an installation work titled The Colourful Clouds (2017, black bras, 10 x 300 x 345 cm), composed of a stack of black-colored bras placed on the gallery floor. Next to the installation is the work The World Has Nothing to Do with Me II, a site-specific installation consisting in a single hair of the artist’s passing through two tiny holes carved into the gallery wall. The work often stands unnoticed, just like the opposing forces we encounter in life, which we often ignore as we tend to concentrate on our own personal narratives. The juxtaposition of these two installation works allows visitors to establish a personal connection with the artist’s experience through activating their senses and perspectives.

Everything is Left Behind is another new series that will be present on this occasion. The three canvases (each 2018, canvas, fallen long hair (the artist’s), each 135 x 90 cm) with Chinese texts rendered using the artist’s hair illustrate the stereotypical comments and opinions forced upon the artist at various stages of her life such as childhood, teenage years, motherhood and being a wife in China. As one steers their eyes towards the other side of the gallery wall, a set of eight canvases from the canvas-series (2018-2019, sign pen on canvas, each 75 x 75 x 15 cm) with vivid patches of hues brightens the space. Titled after their start and completion dates since 2012, it is one of the longest ongoing series of Cao Yu’s oeuvre. According to the artist, it was the first time that she questioned herself about art. Cao Yu follows the threads on each canvas with sign pens as if aimlessly wandering in a foreign space. Whether in textual or in abstract forms, these canvases record the traces of Cao Yu’s path as an artist. There is one prevailing question that the artist addresses to her audience: how can art make sense of our seemingly inconceivable society?

In the works of Cao Yu, one finds consistent opposing elements in each work, yet the artist seeks to address them through various lenses, may it be gender, class, ideology or time related issues. Her multidisciplinary practice provides viewers with a myriad of visual narratives while delving into broader issues in society. Drawing from her own experience, Cao Yu’s works reflect on the zeitgeist and attempts to define what it means to be a female, a Chinese and an artist in the current climate. As a female, she addresses issues on gender with the inclusion of the male narrative. As a Chinese, she draws on Chinese tradition and custom in an expansive and contemporary language. And as an artist, she continually challenges her artistic practice and confronts ideas on art, people and society. Her works are not opinionated. Instead, they allow viewers to form their interpretation under an organic process, either through direct physical interaction with a work or by being visually drawn to them. Viewers are invited to reconstitute the artist’s experience through her works and reflect on her surroundings experience as an artist, a wife and a woman in today’s society.

Cao Yu was born in Liaoning, China in 1988 and lives and works in Beijing. She received a BFA and MA in Sculpture from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China. Her recent major group exhibitions were held at Baxter Street at Camera Club, New York (2019), Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (2019); Zhuzhong Art Museum, Beijing (2018); Martina Tauber Fine Art, Munich (2018); Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing (2018); Diskurs Berlin (2017); Artspace, Sydney, Australia (2017); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016). She was awarded Young Artist of the Year, 12th AAC Award of Art China (2018);Nomination of Prix Yishu 8 (2017). Her works are in the collection of M+ Collection, Hong Kong; Zhuzhong Art Museum, Beijing; Si Shang Art Museum, Beijing; Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum, Beijing.



2019 (deutsch)

Die Galerie Urs Meile freut sich, Femme Fatale die zweite Einzelausstellung von Cao Yu mit der Galerie, und ihre erste Ausstellung in Europa präsentieren zu dürfen.

Cao Yu erweitert ihr Oeuvre um die Fotoserie Femme Fatale, welche zugleich der Ausstellung den Titel gibt. Es ist das erste Mal, dass sich die Künstlerin mit dem Medium Fotografie auseinandersetzt. Cao Yu’s experimentell geprägte künstlerische Praxis wurde dem Publikum in ihrer Einzelausstellung I Have a Hourglass Waist 2017 in der Pekinger Dependance der Galerie erstmals präsentiert. Ihr multidisziplinäres Schaffen, das von Video zu Skulptur, von Installationen zu Arbeiten auf Leinwand und nun auch Fotografie reicht, ist geprägt von der Auseinandersetzung mit ihrer Umgebung, ihren persönlichen Erfahrungen sowie ihrer Rolle als Künstlerin. Auf diese Weise sind Cao Yu’s Interpretationen sowohl für neues als auch für vertrautes Publikum aufrüttelnd und kontemplativ zugleich.

In der Ausstellung sind drei überlebensgroße Porträtfotografien aus der Serie Femme Fatale (2019, Edition von 2 + 1 AP, c-print, je 250 x 140 cm) zu sehen. Die goldenen Rahmen akzentuieren den pompösen Stil, der an die Bilderrahmen aus der französischen Régence-Zeit im 18. Jahrhundert erinnert, welche oft für Porträts der französischen Monarchen verwendet wurden. Im Gegensatz dazu, stellen Cao Yu’s abgebildete Charaktere gewöhnliche, aber dennoch sich voneinander unterscheidende Männer aus verschiedenen Gesellschaftsklassen dar, die beim öffentlichen Urinieren ertappt werden. Jeder der Männer enthüllt auf den Fotografien seine soziale Schicht. Sei es der typische Büroangestellte, der auf den Boden blickt, der Betrunkene, welcher rumschreit und auf Passanten zeigt, oder die Führungsperson mit erhobenem Haupt. Keiner unter ihnen scheint den Blick eines Fremden zu scheuen. Ihr exhibitionistisches Verhalten kann parallel zu dem der französischen Monarchen gelesen werden. Für die Arbeit Kneeling Figure (2018, Leinwand, je 134 x 84 x 12 cm) kniet Cao Yu auf einer leeren Leinwand – eine alte Etikette im chinesischen Feudalsystem – bis sich auf der Leinwand zwei konkave Hohlräume abzeichnen. Die Betrachter werden von den Spuren der Handlung der Künstlerin eingenommen und sind vor die Frage gestellt, weswegen und für wen die Künstlerin kniet. Die Serie Femme Fatale sowie Kneeling Figure reflektieren über die Dynamiken der Macht im Laufe der Zeit in Bezug auf gesellschaftliche Klassen, Geschlecht und Tradition.

Zudem werden in der Ausstellung Yeah, I am Everywhere (2019, grüner Marmor, 24k vergoldeter Kupferguss,2-teilig; 20 x 62 x 42 cm, 54 x 70 x 40 cm) – eine neue skulpturale Arbeit – und zwei Marmorskulpturen The World is Like This for Now II (2018, ein einzelnes langes Haar der Künstlerin, Marmor, 2-teilig; 96x 59 x 50 cm, 73 x 65 x 30 cm) und 90°C IV (2019, Marmor, Seidenstrumpf, 56 x 46 x 36 cm) gezeigt. Im Verständnis der Künstlerin, werden Steine wie Marmor in der Regel als leblos empfunden, bewusst fügt ihnen Cao Yu Elemente wie Strümpfe und menschliche Finger hinzu, um diesem ansonsten stumm wirkenden Material Leben einzuhauchen. Sie stellen den „Druck des Lebens“ dar, sagt Cao Yu. Für die neue Skulptur Yeah, I am Everywhere wählt die Künstlerin grünen Marmor, dessen Farbe sie mit dem bevorstehenden Frühling assoziiert. Anstelle von spriessenden Wildblumen, die aus dem Grün des blühenden Frühlings hervorgehen, pflanzt Cao Yu zehn vergoldete Fingerformen, die den Fingern der Künstlerin nachgebildet sind, auf den grünen Marmor. Genau wie die chaotisch wachsenden Wildblumen stehen die goldenen Finger für ein unendlich kräftiges Wachstum, das trotz Einschränkungen durch die Außenwelt durchscheint, als ob es "Yeah, I am Everywhere" schreien würde. Die Serie der Marmorskulpturen versteht sich als Kommentar zu den allgegenwärtigen Bürden des Lebens, bietet jedoch eine differenziertere Sichtweise auf unsere Umgebung an.

Cao Yu‘s kontroverse Videoarbeit Fountain – die damals aus der Abschlussausstellung ihrer Universität entfernt wurde – wird zusammen mit den zwei Videoarbeiten I Have und The Labourer präsentiert. Das 11 Minuten lange Video Fountain (2015, Edition von 10 + 2 AP, Einkanal-Video, HD, Farbe, ohne Ton, 11’10”) zeigt die Künstlerin, die ihren eigenen Körper als performatives Werkzeug verwendet. In einem langen und anstrengenden Prozess presst sie Muttermilch aus ihren Brüsten, bis diese vollständig ausgepumpt sind. Der Titel der Arbeit ist eine Antwort auf die in der Kunstgeschichte häufig männliche Assoziation mit Werken wie Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) und Bruce Nauman’s Self-Portrait as a Fountain (1966-67). In I Have (2017, Edition von 6 + 2 AP, Einkanal-Video, HD, Farbe, Ton, 4’22’’) erzählt die Künstlerin vor laufender Kamera, welche positiven und neidauslösenden Eigenschaften sie angeblich besitzt, wobei jeder Satz mit “Ich habe ...” beginnt. The Labourer (2017, Edition von 6 + 2 AP, Einkanal-Video, HD, Farbe, ohne Ton, 8’33”) zeigt den Akt des Teigknetens. Anstatt Hände und Wasser zu verwenden, dokumentiert das Video, wie die Künstlerin das Mehl wiederholt mit ihren Füßen und ihrem eigenen Urin mischt. The Labourer steht einerseits in starkem visuellem Kontrast zur Fotoserie Femme Fatale, teilt jedoch auch wechselseitige Nuancen mit ihr: Die Gender-Umkehrpsychologie in Cao Yu‘s Arbeiten erinnert an die Stummfilmgroteske Les Résultats du Feminisme (1906) der französischen Regisseurin Alice Guy, in welcher die Geschlechterrollen vertauscht werden. Der Film zeigt Männer im Haushalt und bei der Kinderbetreuung, während Frauen in Cafés trinken und Männer umwerben. Cao Yu‘s autobiografische Videoarbeiten hinterfragen die Vorstellung von Gender und sozial konstruierten Stereotypen.

Die Ausstellung empfängt die Besucher mit einer interaktiven Installation am Türgriff der Galerie. Das Werk mit dem Titel Perplexing Romance besteht aus gelber Vaseline, die am gesamten Türgriff der Galerie verschmiert ist. Jeder Besucher ist gezwungen und in Versuchung geführt diese zu berühren, aber gleichzeitig irritiert von der “perplexen” Begrüßung. Beim Eintreten stellt ein Galeriemitarbeiter dem Besucher ein Tuch, welches die Unterschrift der Künstlerin trägt, zur Verfügung, um sich die Hände abzuwischen und es anschliessend in einem der bereitgestellten Plastiksäcke zu entsorgen. Die Besucher werden zudem aufgefordert den Waschraum der Galerie zu benutzen, wo sie auf eine Klanginstallation mit dem Titel The Flesh Flavour (2017, Edition von 3 + 1 AP, Ton, 13’13”) stoßen. Komponiert aus einer zufälligen Auswahl an bizarren Geräuschen wie lautem Kauen, Geräusche eines Paares beim Geschlechtsverkehr oder Peitschenhieben aus unbekannter Richtung stellen die Besucher vor ein verwirrendes Rätsel. Zurück im Galerieraum, sind die Besucher gezwungen, über die Installation The Colourful Clouds (2017, schwarze BHs, 10 x 300 x 345 cm), – einer Anordnung von schwarzen BHs auf dem Boden – den Hauptraum zu betreten. In direkter Nachbarschaft zur BH-Installation wird die Arbeit The World Has Nothing to Do with Me II ausgestellt, eine ortsspezifische Installation, bestehend aus einem einzelnen Haar der Künstlerin, welches durch die Galeriewand gezogen und zusammengeknüpft wurde. Dieses Werk bleibt oft unbemerkt, ähnlich wie wir die gegensätzlichen Kräfte in unserem Leben ignorieren, da sich jeder auf sein persönliches Narrativ fokussiert. Indem seine Sinne aktiviert werden, erlaubt es die Gegenüberstellung der beiden Installationsarbeiten dem Besucher eine persönliche Verbindung zum Erleben der Künstlerin herzustellen.

Everything is Left Behind (2018, Leinwand, lange Einzelhaare der Künstlerin, je 135 x 90 cm) ist eine weitere neue Serie, welche in der aktuellen Ausstellung präsentiert wird. Cao Yu verwendete ihre eigenen Haare, um die Leinwände mit chinesischen Texten zu besticken. Auf den drei Leinwände stehen stereotypische Kommentare und Meinungen, mit denen die Künstlerin im Verlaufe ihres Lebens als heranwachsendes Mädchen, als Teenager, als Mutter oder Ehefrau in China konfrontiert wurde. An der gegenüberliegenden Galeriewand, reihen sich acht farbige Leinwände der Canvas-Serie (2018-2019, Kugelschreiber auf Leinwand, je 75 x 75 x 15 cm), welche Cao Yu seit 2012 fortführt. Benannt sind die Arbeiten mit dem jeweiligen Anfangs- und Fertigstellungsdatum. Laut der Künstlerin hat sie die Arbeit an dieser Serie dazu bewegt, Kunst als solches zu hinterfragen. Cao Yu folgt jedem Faden der Leinwand mit verschiedenfarbigen Zeichenstiften, als ob sie ziellos durch einen fremden Raum wandern würden. Egal ob in Textform oder in abstrakter Form, diese Leinwände zeichnen die Spuren von Cao Yu’s Weg als Künstlerin nach. So stellt sie eine dominante Frage an das Publikum: Wie kann Kunst unserer komplexen Gesellschaft Sinn geben?

In Cao Yu’s Werken finden sich gegensätzliche Elemente, welche die Künstlerin aus verschiedenen Perspektiven betrachtet, sei es das Geschlecht, gesellschaftliche Klassifizierungen, oder Fragen zu Ideologie und Zeit. Ihre multidisziplinäre Praxis konfrontiert den Betrachter mit einer Vielzahl visueller Narrative und befasst sich vertieft mit aktuellen gesellschaftlichen Themen. Cao Yu’s Arbeiten reflektieren den Zeitgeist und versuchen zu definieren, was es bedeutet, Frau, Chinesin und Künstlerin in unserer heutigen Gesellschaft zu sein. Als Frau befasst sie sich mit Genderfragen unter Einbeziehung des männlichen Narrativs. Als Chinesin greift sie chinesische Tradition und Sitte mit einer zeitgenössischen Sprache auf. Als Künstlerin stellt sie immer wieder ihre künstlerische Praxis in Frage und konfrontiert diese mit Ideen zu Kunst, Mensch und Gesellschaft. Ihre Werke sind nicht rechthaberisch. Sie ermöglichen dem Betrachter eine Annäherung durch direkte physische Interaktion mit einem Werk, oder über visuelle Anziehung. Die Zuschauer sind eingeladen, die Erfahrungen der Künstlerin über ihre Arbeiten nachzuvollziehen und ihre Erfahrungen als Künstlerin, Frau und Ehefrau in der heutigen Gesellschaft zu reflektieren.

Cao Yu wurde 1988 in Liaoning, China, geboren und lebt und arbeitet in Peking. Sie absolvierte einen BFA und MA in Skulptur an der Central Academy of Fine Arts, Peking, China. Jüngst wurden ihre Werke in folgenden Gruppenausstellungen gezeigt: Baxter Street im Camera Club, New York (2019), Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Wien (2019); Zhuzhong Art Museum, Peking (2018); Martina Tauber Fine Art, München (2018); Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Peking (2018); Diskurs Berlin (2017); Artspace, Sydney, Australia (2017); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016). Cao Yu wurde zum Young Artist of the Year gekürt, 12. AAC Award of Art China (2018), und war nominiert für den Prix Yishu 8 in China (2017). Ihre Werke befinden sich in folgenden Sammlungen: M + Collection, Hong Kong; Zhuzhong Art Museum, Peking; Si Shang Art Museum, Peking; Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum, Peking.