May 20 - August 6, 2017
Opening: Saturday, May 20, 2017; 5 - 7pm


Qiu Shihua

untitled, 2011
oil on canvas,
150 x 286 cm



Qiu Shihua

2017 (english)

Galerie Urs Meile is delighted to announce the opening of the new exhibition space in the 798 Art District in Beijing with an inaugural exhibition by Qiu Shihua. The new gallery is located in one of the historical buildings that once made up the Dashanzi factory complex and is now known as the 798 Art District. In recent months the former warehouse has been completely renovated under the direction of the Japanese architect Mitsunori Sano. The 520-square-meter floor plan now contains generous-sized exhibition and reception areas, offices, and storage rooms. Offering perfect conditions for exhibitions featuring its rich and diverse roster of artists, the new venue underlines Galerie Urs Meile’s commitment to the city’s vibrant art scene.

Qiu Shihua (*1940 in Zizhong, Sichuan Province, China; lives and works in Shenzhen and Beijing, China) holds a singular position within contemporary art. At first glance you see big, off-white, seemingly empty canvases. But at second glance,, actual landscapes appear. Terrain forms out of the white background and vanishes again. Upon closer inspection you realize that the apparently white surfaces are surprisingly colorful and that traces of thinly applied pigment are visible.

Established contemporary art terms don’t help to describe what a viewer experiences in front of Qiu Shihua’s paintings. Oft-quoted modes of perception, ideas of space, landscape, or painting itself are not of concern to the artist. You have to deploy a spiritual vocabulary to find words for Qiu Shihua’s art: as a viewer, it is best to let associations come and go, similar to the way that thoughts appear and disappear during meditation, and to give up on reason, will, and intention in favor of an intuitive, acquiescent perception. Visualization and imagination are also helpful concepts for approaching Qiu Shihua’s works. His images are projection screens. Self-confidently, the artist states that he is not interested in other peoples’ thoughts, and this could be interpreted as an aloof attitude. But it is not so much a lack of interest in communication than it is the insight that, where spirituality is concerned, a profound exchange is simply not possible. Goethe’s words can be applied to every image, but they are particularly true of Qiu Shihua’s blank spaces: “You only see what you already know and understand.” The artist allows his audience many liberties. Whatever anyone sees in the painting is in the painting, he states. His motifs are proposals. Because of this his landscapes are archetypes and not copies of existing scenery. Chinese art has a long tradition of idealized landscapes. In Western art history the first landscape painting dates back to the early Renaissance, and to this day they are mainly concerned with representation. Not only did China have a head start of roughly a thousand years—the first landscape paintings date from the Tang Dynasty (618-907)—but Chinese art also has a fundamentally different notion of the landscape: from the beginning landscape was conceived as an idealized, almost ornamentally organized space for meditation. A tradition Qiu Shihua relates to.

For Qiu Shihua, the development of his radical, achromatic style was an act of liberation from the logic of the Western avant-garde and his education in Socialist Realism’s painting styles. Trained at the art academy in Xi’an, he initially worked as poster painter for a theater in Tongchuan. During the 1980s he had the opportunity to travel to Europe and to study Western art history. He has been painting his characteristic, neutral landscapes since the early 1990s.




Li Gang
"Li Gang"

April 28 - August 5, 2017
Opening: Friday, April 28, 2017; 6 - 8pm


Li Gang

Desserts, 2015
plaster, rebar, hair, discarded kettles and pots
32 pcs, sizes vary from 39 x 30 x 23 cm to 94 x 84 x 78 cm



Li Gang
Li Gang

2017 (english)

Li Gang (*1986, lives and works in Beijing) digs deep into everyday life to find materials that make the strongest statements. Out of these he produces his thoroughly classical-looking works of art. He works with
exhaust pipes, cement, rebar, jade bracelets, plaster, human hair, hemp rope, bank notes, stones, and rubbish. Our exhibition in Lucerne features sculptures and oil paintings from a variety of series.

For the sculptural piece False or True (2014 – 2016, cement, lime, stainless steel, dimensions vary from 12 x 16 x 16 cm to 24 x 26 x 23 cm [sculptures], 50 x 45 x 50 cm [stainless steel structures]), which is now in its final stages, Li Gang has built a machine that draws humidity out of the surrounding air and transforms it into cement by constantly dripping it into a container full of cement. Atmosphere is made visible. These accidently beautiful, solidified chunks of concrete are presented in a three-dimensional framework made of stainless steel bars. They resemble so-called Chinese scholar’s rocks—natural stones that are set up in scholars’ rooms for the purpose of contemplating them. One of Li Gang’s devices is to use the material most symbolic of China’s extreme progress, which was used to build the Three Gorges dam, endless miles of streets, and countless buildings. In the years since 2012 China has produced more cement than the United States has manufactured since 1900.

Li Gang’s series Gravity (2016, jade bracelets, steel tubes, dimensions vary from 290 x 80 x 60 cm to 356 x 100 x 75 cm) was built of reinforced steel, the second kind of material that has made China’s rapid urbanization possible. Piece by piece, Li welded together the metal in a process that resembles that of a construction worker’s. He threaded jade bracelets into some of the sections, then affixed them to the sculpture with more welded metal. The delicate works thus constructed refer to the relationships among the people who deal with these materials: the hoards of women and men who migrate through the country searching for ways to earn a living, drawn to the centers of economic progress as if by gravity. Like the process of making Li’s sculptures, these people are always adjusting to something new, adapting to new conditions.

A mixture of plaster and hair cut from the heads of Chinese migrant workers rises like condensed steam or fragile dollops of whipped cream out of old kettles and pots left behind by these contemporary nomads on their travels to far-distant factories and construction sites. Yet, an analysis of the hair could reveal everything about the identities and lifestyles of the individual hair salon customers. Via these biographical tracks, left behind every few weeks, anyone can imagine the routes these people have taken. For Desserts (2015, plaster, rebar, hair, discarded kettles and pots, dimensions vary from 41 x 30 x 23 cm to 92 x 76 x 76 cm) the hair was randomly swept up and mixed with plaster, according to traditional construction methods, to produce anonymous construction materials. With these Desserts Li Gang succeeds at precisely analyzing the contemporary phenomenon of worker migration inside of China.

His latest Oilpaintings (2016, oil on hand-made canvas, dimensions vary from 125 x 122 cm to 160 x 163 cm), which will also be on display in the Lucerne show, are linked to Li’s homeland of Yunnan in South China, where he had the canvas for his paintings woven out of raw hemp by local craftspeople. On these canvases he paints enlarged details of source material derived from art history and his own environment. With their exaggerated dimensions and natural flesh tones, the broad brushstrokes on rough textiles have a direct effect on the viewer’s physical presence; no one is used to feeling so deeply immersed in a painting—a sensation caused by an optically deceptive proximity.

The young artist shifts with absolute certainty through various media, such as sculpture, installation, and painting. Every one of Li Gang’s groups of works can assert its extreme individuality, yet at the same time, each can be traced back to its own completely unique, intense exploration of its environment and the themes that result from this process, as well as to the experiences of life, loss, and transformation. Using the materials and motifs he chooses regardless of their value, Li Gang creates works that make strong statements about place, time, and society. His works keep pace with sociological and philosophical analyses, and provide substantial material for the discourse, as well as for the realities of life in China.



2017 (deutsch)

Li Gang (*1986, lebt und arbeitet in Peking) greift tief in den Alltag hinein, um Materialien trefflichster Aussagekraft zu finden und daraus stilsicher seine durchaus klassisch anmutenden Kunstwerke zu schaffen. Er arbeitet mit Auspuffruss, Zement, Armierungseisen, Jadearmreifen, Gips, menschlichem Haar, Hanfschnur, Geldscheinen, Steinen, Abfall. In unserer Luzerner Ausstellung zeigen wir Skulpturen und Ölmalerei aus verschiedenen Werkserien.

Für die in ihrem Endstadium skulpturale Arbeit False or True (2014 – 2016, Zement, Kalk, Edelstahl, Grössen variieren von 12 x 16 x 16 cm bis 24 x 26 x 23 cm [Skulptur], 50 x 45 x 50 cm [Edelstahlgestell]) hat Li Gang eine Maschine konstruiert, die Feuchtigkeit aus der Umgebungsluft zieht und diese durch beständiges Tropfen in einen Behälter mit Zement in Beton umwandelt. Atmosphäre wird sichtbar gemacht. Diese erstarrten Betonbrocken von zufälliger Schönheit präsentiert er in einer dreidimensionalen Umrahmung aus Eisenstäben. Sie wirken wie sogenannte chinesische Gelehrtensteine, in der Natur gefundene Steine, die zum Zweck der Kontemplation in Gelehrtenstuben aufgestellt wurden. Ein Kunstgriff Li Gangs ist die Verwendung eines der symbolträchtigsten Materialien für Chinas extremen Fortschritt, aus dem der Drei-Schluchten-Staudamm gebaut wurde und zudem unendliche Kilometer von Strassen sowie unzählige Geschäfts- und Wohnhäuser entstehen. In den Jahren seit 2012 hat China mehr Zement hergestellt als die USA im gesamten Zeitraum seit 1900.

Seine Werkserie Gravity (2016, Jadearmreifen, Stahlrohre, Grössen variieren von 290 x 80 x 60 cm bis 356 x 100 x 75 cm) baut er aus Armierungseisen, dem zweiten Material, das Chinas rapide Urbanisierung möglich macht. Stück für Stück hat Li Gang die Eisen in einem Prozess zusammengeschweisst, der die Arbeit eines Bauarbeiters nachvollzieht, und auf einige der Abschnitte Jadearmreifen gefädelt, um diese dann durch das Anschweissen weiterer Eisen in der Skulptur zu fixieren. Die so aufgebauten filigranen Werke verweisen auf die Beziehungen zwischen den Menschen, die mit diesen Materialien Umgang haben: die Frauen und Männer, die auf der Suche nach einer Existenz auf einer gigantischen Wanderbewegung durch das Land ziehen, wie von der Schwerkraft in die Zentren des wirtschaftlichen Fortschritts gezogen. Die, wie bei den Herstellungsschritten der Skulpturen, ihre Beziehungen immer wieder aufs Neue arrangieren und den neuen Bedingungen anpassen müssen.

Ein Gemisch aus abgeschnittenen Haaren chinesischer Wanderarbeiter und Gips erhebt sich wie verdichteter Wasserdampf oder fragile Sahnehäubchen aus alten, von diesen zeitgenössischen Nomaden auf ihrer Wanderung in die weit entfernten Produktionsstätten und Baustellen zurückgelassenen Wasserkesseln und Töpfen. Eine Analyse der Haare könnte alles über die Identität und den Lebensstil der einzelnen Coiffeurbesucher offenbaren. Anhand dieser biografischen Spuren, die sie in den zeitlichen Intervallen weniger Wochen legen, könnte jede einzelne ihrer Routen nachvollzogen werden. Für die Desserts (2015, Gips, Armierungseisen, Haar, zurückgelassene Wasserkessel und Töpfe, Grössen variieren von 41 x 30 x 23 cm bis 92 x 76 x 76 cm) wurden ihre Haare unterschiedslos zusammengefegt und mit Gips analog traditioneller Konstruktionsmethoden zu anonymem Baustoff gemischt. Li Gang gelingt mit diesen Desserts eine präzise Analyse des innerchinesischen Gegenwartsphänomens der Arbeitsmigration.

Seine neuesten Oilpaintings (2016, Öl auf handgemachtem Malgrund, Grössen variieren von 125 x 122 cm bis 160 x 163 cm), die auch in der Luzerner Ausstellung gezeigt werden, sind mit seiner Heimat Yunnan in Südchina verbunden, wo er die Malgründe von lokalen Handwerkern aus rauem Hanf weben lässt. Darauf malt er vergrösserte Details von Vorlagen aus Kunstgeschichte und eigenem Lebensumfeld. Die breiten Pinselstriche auf groben Textilien wirken in ihren gesteigerten Dimensionen und den natürlichen, fleischlichen Farbtönen unmittelbar auf die Körperlichkeit des Betrachters, ist man es doch nicht gewohnt, durch die optisch vorgetäuschte Nähe so tief in Bilder einzudringen.

Mit absoluter Sicherheit bewegt sich der junge Künstler in den unterschiedlichen Medien wie Skulptur, Installation und Malerei. Jede von Li Gangs Werkgruppen kann äusserste Eigenständigkeit beanspruchen und ist gleichzeitig auf die ganz eigene, intensive Auseinandersetzung mit seiner Umwelt und den sich daraus ergebenden Themen sowie auf die Erfahrungen von Leben, Verlust und Verwandlung zurückzuführen. Aus Materialien und Motiven, die er unabhängig von ihrem Warenwert gleichberechtigt auswählt, schafft Li Gang Werke mit höchster lokaler, temporaler und gesellschaftlicher Aussagekraft. Seine Werke halten soziologischen und philosophischen Analysen stand und liefern stichhaltiges Material für die Diskussion, nicht nur der chinesischen Wirklichkeit.