Past Exhibition | Antenna Space

From Byzantine Community to East Lake Park

Duration: 2016.04.29 - 2016.06.18
Hours: 11:00 AM - 06:30 PM
Artist:  GONG Jian
Address: 202, 50 Moganshan Rd, Building 17, Shanghai, China
Antenna Space is proud to present From Byzantine Community to East Lake Park, a solo exhibition by artist Gong Jian that marks his return to the theme of parks after his 2008 solo exhibition, People’s Park. The exhibition is comprised of more than twenty works from four new series, park sculptures, Look, a Grey Tree, Portrait for a Tree, and Balcony, all of which are imitation copies of everyday photographs. What is different this time, however, is Gong’s renunciation of conceptual discussions in the process of translation and portraying; instead, he returns to the linguistic structure and painting systems of early modernism and its antecedents, and, by way of painting, reexamines and investigates vision, form, subject, and their relationships—questions that are fundamental to the practice of painting itself. On this note, we can cite On Painting, the first treatise on the theory of painting in Western art history, in which Leone Battista Alberti divides his discussion of painting into three volumes: linear geometric perspective, laws of form, and content and theme. After its publication, almost all theoretical models on painting (and its history) from the 19th century onwards, be it formalism, iconography, or even visual culture, can more or less find their root in this magnum opus. To some extent, Gong Jian has also consciously returned to Alberti’s original proposition.

Admittedly, Gong Jian’s practice is not a simple re-evaluation of the Alberti theory and its corresponding Renaissance paintings; rather, it reveals several of Alberti’s propositions evident in history—the various perspectives of viewing and analytic approaches under the frameworks of classicism, realism, modernism, and post-structuralism that Alberti had opened up. Therefore, in Gong’s view, what can be derived from perspectivism is actually the visuality and viewing apparatus of painting; the so-called form not only involves contour/outlining, composition, and light/-shade, but also deals with issues such as figuration and abstraction, depth and surface, and nothingness and being; as for the subject matter of painting, in addition to the pictorial motifs and their respective concepts and representations, there are also a myriad of intertwining issues such as photography and painting, the present and history, art and society, visuality and narrative, experience and knowledge, repetition and difference, etc. However, these parameters
and dimensions, so often presented as logically coherent in theoretical texts, are not so precise in Gong’s painting practice; rather, like a complex, three-dimensional network, he strives—through continuously changing operations and experiments—to invent a new linguistic structure, and way of understanding.

Gong’s practice is one of meta-painting that possesses a distinct “self-referentiality” and “self-reflexivity,” which is in turn based on his doubts and inquiries into contemporary painting and the entire art system. This is fully embodied in the artist’s sensitivity towards current affairs and his perspicacity—or, rather, this itself is part of his painting system. Therefore, the theme of the exhibition, From Byzantine Community to East Lake Park, is at once the
starting point of his painting experience, and a crucial path towards conceptualization and cognition. 

(The press release is adapted from Lu Mingjun, “Return: Towards an Institution of Painterly Subjectivity”)