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Space 2, 2009
Galerie Urs Meile Beijing is delighted to announce our second solo exhibition by Meng Huang. As a Chinese artist who spends part of his time in Berlin, Meng Huang has embedded his perspective on history, derived from his personal experiences, into the background of his unique artworks. He is primarily a painter, but he also works in other media, such as photography and installation. This exhibition will showcase several different series of paintings Meng Huang has completed in recent years. His unique grasp of hue and his choice of theme, which has a rather realistic flavor, mirror the artist’s reflection and analysis on the state of contemporary Chinese society.
Meng Huang started to work on his series Distance (2011-2013, oil on canvas, sizes ranging from 38 × 46 cm to 220 × 400 cm) in 2010. In his railway-themed paintings he explored his understanding of German culture, as well as his feelings about it. Meng Huang is able to express his notions of Germany through these images of railway tracks. These functional objects, especially their straight lines, bring forth his memories of childhood. As a child, he lived alongside a railway track; following the sleepers into the distance, he always imagined a happier place beyond the horizon. The implications of the railway itself, its abstract shape, and the feelings the artist has about life all mesh very well together, and thus the railway has become one of the key themes in Meng Huang’s artworks in recent years.
After many years of painting, Meng Huang has summarized his own works as a portrayal of space. Meng Huang has taken the depth of feeling emanating from the horizontal expanse and breadth of one of his earliest series of paintings, Paradise Lost (1997-2001, oil on canvas, sizes ranging from 80 × 92 cm to 200 × 280 cm), as well as from Distance, and refined it into horizontal and vertical axes that then become a subtle space. Space (2009, oil on canvas, 50 × 40 cm each), a series of small-scale oil paintings in bright colors—which the artist rarely uses—is concise and forceful, and it also reflects the artist’s exceptional control of color and expression.
While exploring the nature of painting and the nature of space, the real China has always been Meng Huang’s main concern. People (2011, oil on canvas, 220 x 400 cm) and Times Square (2011, oil on canvas, 180 × 280 cm) reel the viewer’s thoughts back to the real China. Meng Huang employs a bird’s eye view to portray the crowds of onlookers that can be seen in towns and villages all across China; they’re either playing cards, watching what’s going on, or just hanging out, doing nothing. He then employs the opposite perspective, looking up from below to depict the flagstone paths that can be seen all over Europe, rendering the scene both preposterous and deeply meaningful. Meng Huang uses white to separate the human figures from the background, expressing the traces and mottled nature of time. Likewise, he depicts the rubble and construction sites that have appeared as a result of the rapid development of Chinese cities. With a fair amount of irony, he named this work Times Square. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see his rarely shown series of landscapes, Distant Mountain (2008-2012, oil on canvas, sizes ranging from 38 × 46 cm to 95 × 150 cm).
In addition to oil paintings, Meng Huang has also accomplished a series of charcoal drawings. He has always been interested in objects with ambiguous features, and charcoal makes him express these uncertainties more freely and appropriately. Clouds and water are themes that he often deals with (for example, Clouds 2 (2013, charcoal on paper, 77 × 109 cm)). Depicting clouds in the far distance overhead and water flowing freely underfoot, he uses the railway tracks to constitute space. Last but not least, the vagaries of clouds fit well with the wandering life of the artist.
Meng Huang was born in Beijing in 1966, and now divides his time between Beijing and Berlin. His works have been exhibited in galleries and art institutions all over the world. His major solo exhibitions include I and We in 2012 at Galerie Urs Meile, Lucerne; Five Faces of a Man in 2010 at Berlin’s WiE Kultur; and And What Do You Think? Landscapes in 2008 at Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing. His major group exhibitions include CAPITAL-Merchants in Venice and Amsterdam in 2012 at the Swiss National Museum, Zurich, Switzerland; Weltsichten at the Museum Wiesbaden and Kunsthalle zu Kiel in Germany; and Mahjong – Chinesische Gegenwartskunst aus der Sammlung Sigg, in 2006 at Germany’s Hamburger Kunsthalle.
untitled #70-013, 2012
Christian Schoeler’s second exhibition at Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing focuses on his works on paper. Besides his large canvases, executed in a mixed media technique and oils, he also creates smaller, more intimate works on hand-made paper. Here he mixes drawing and printing techniques with watercolors or pastels instead of oil paint. They are different from the oil paintings because this technique is faster, and Schoeler has to construct his images in reverse, starting with the highlights and moving on to the darker shades of the image, since the light comes from the paper when less opaque color is used. The order and layers of the several techniques differ from piece to piece, and in the end even experts cannot distinguish between them.
Although they are reminiscent of classic portraits, Schoeler’s works are not. The artist once said, “It’s about beautiful paintings, not about beautiful boys.” So, if the work has a name in its title, it might differ from the model’s real name. Christian Schoeler arranges photo shoots with models or friends, as he did, for example, for the Solomon Series (Solomon, 2011, mixed media and pastel on handmade paper, 90 × 60 cm; untitled #071 (Solomon), 2011, mixed media and pastel on handmade paper, 85 × 61 cm; untitled #072 (Solomon), 2011, mixed media and pastel on handmade paper, 93 × 61 cm). Debating the issue of whether it is legitimate to use printing techniques and photography in painting is obsolete, because all famous painters have employed the technical means available in their times. Born in 1978 in Hagen, Germany, Christian Schoeler stages photographs and uses the images as starting points for new works. However, he is not interested in staying true to the actual appearance of the person depicted. Other works on paper are based on a combination of photographs he has found or made himself. He takes the scenery from one photograph and a person from another and combines them together in “a miniature of an alternative reality.”
Schoeler appropriately describes his studio as a laboratory, a place where things are being transformed and experiments are conducted. In his laboratory he converts his models into androgynous, apparitional figures. Schoeler doesn’t paint their bodies; he paints his idealized impression of them. Their indefiniteness makes his drawings function as a mirror for the artist’s emotions. Sometimes, when looking at older paintings he has done, Schoeler wonders why he exposed so much of himself in a work. The people in his works are like ethereal doubles, and Schoeler deals with his own vulnerability when creating them. As a result, we see transcendent beings emerging from a mist; ghostly youngsters, inseparable from back- or foreground, introverted figures that define the space around them and are at the same time absorbed by it.
The title of the exhibition, I wanna be ignored ..., could be read as a statement made by one of these too-beautiful human beings as he disappears into the haze, but it was actually made by the artist. It is strikingly unusual. If the artist wants to be ignored, then why exhibit? Isn’t the purpose of an exhibition to be seen? But this title is not a classic one, meant to be a headline above a selection of works, or a message to visitors. It is an intimate and personal statement. Over the last year Christian Schoeler had the most humbling experience a human being can have: being seriously ill. He suffered from an ischemic cerebral infarction. The self-deprecating title expresses his wish that—now that he feels better and is more like himself again—his friends would worry less about him and not anxiously monitor all his body functions anymore. Furthermore, it reflects his modesty, a mindset one automatically adopts when one is confronted with nerve-wracking trials and has no chance to exercise influence. As the artist is currently on the road to recovery, all of the works in the exhibition date from before July 2013, but many of them are being exhibited for the first time. It was important for Galerie Urs Meile to show Christian Schoeler’s work at this point, and we are looking forward to seeing more of him in the future.
Galerie Urs Meile Beijing
D10, 798 East Street, 798 Art District
No. 2 Jiuxianqiao Road Chaoyang District
100015 Beijing, China
Galerie Urs Meile Lucerne
6004 Lucerne, Switzerland