Detachment and Transfiguration
Location: Shanghai Icicle Space
Xiang Yang’s signature thread series and wooden constructed installations are featured in this exhibition at Icicle Space. The thread series seen in this exhibition are re-creations by the artist after the original works were destroyed by Tyhoon “Mangosteen” in 2018. Several “reincarnated” thread pieces, make their debut in two-dimensional form, and envelope a ruined thread installation, which is shown in the un-repaired appearance after the violent storm. The colorful thread columns flowing on the wall, and the suspended thread lines in the exhibition space, portray an image of a shattered landscape—together they outline a scene of a transfigured fate. The audience can visually contemplate the reconstruction process, whereby the artist transforms suffering into an iconic language of his artwork. This process is like an allegory to the one and only way for an individual to reach a higher spiritual realm, that is, to detach from his original form, experience adversities and transfigure into a new state of being. Because each object has the potential within it for reform and recovery, the radiant threads are able to extend into different spaces and dimensions, and to re-construct a freer form beyond its physical attributes.
After Xiang Yang returned from the United States to China in 2010, he began to combine autobiographical memories with original and inventive imagery, as well with the world view formed by living in different countries. Then he brought these elements into his architecturally scaled installations such as in Transfiguration House. Here Xiang Yang creates a hybrid structure, which is derived from fragments of oriental culture, collected from the memory of his past. This is reflected in the Chinese antique furniture and discarded materials of wooden architecture, and the images of architectural details on the scrims, which are abstracted by the movement of threads. It is worth mentioning that this work was created for and showcased at the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial in 2018 and exhibited at the Kinare Contemporary Art Museum, Japan. With the traditional Chinese architectural structure and its current location in modern Shanghai, this installation seems to create in the artist, and even for viewers who have stepped inside it, a sense of cultural dislocation. It gives them the identity of a historical traveler who is wandering in contemporary society.
In recent years, Xiang Yang has projected his preference for precision into the study of structural and spatial relationships. His new works, delicate porcelain mushrooms made in Jingdezhen, are another example of the artist’s exploration of expressing a highly refined style in a different medium. Earlier this year, the mushroom series was first shown in Art at Fuliang, an art field festival held in the countryside of Jingdezhen. Xiang Yang "planted" these imitation mushrooms on old objects in a village house as if they had grown out of abandoned memories. In this exhibition such detailed "observation" toward humanity and nature has been transferred from the rural countryside of Fuliang to the urban metropolis of Shanghai, thus showing the potential force and impact of artworks in different environments.
Through the use of tender threads, the tension created by these threads, the exquisite wooden structure, and the delicate yet lively tiny mushrooms that "grow" from these structures, the artist wishes to lead us into a special realm and to reveal a sensate world around us. Under the title of "Detachment and Transfiguration", the exhibition may provide the audience with a subtle hint to explore this realm: to experience the natural force within the objects, and to personally engage with the transformation of the artworks.