Chambers Fine Art’s most recent exhibition presented the work of a set of seven not-before-seen artists under the arc of a simple premise: 'make something new.' Of all the attempts to dissolve curatorial interventions that go on, this offered perhaps an easy solution – new artists + new work; no background concept to run with or discard when looking at it. On show were pieces using photography, video, pencil, painting and ink.
There was engaging variety between works that share the same medium, namely the paintings. Yang Dawei has created a beautiful painted surface in Red Landscape, an oil painting with the horizon line right at the top, above which lie the outlines of low-slung pitched-roof buildings. The main ground is filled with a tapestry of red blotches and connecting lines that from afar look like a crop of poppies rendered in an abstract way. In the second room, Zeng Yang’s odd circular canvases (2.3 metres in diameter) were highly personalised spirals of, one suspects, a mixture of real things, memories and personal conjurings, melded together on a mental plane. The drawing style is cartoon-like, employing strange swelling and shrinking scales rendered in blackish and grey tones. Easier on the logic, perhaps, are two more paintings by Yang Dawei, Swimming Pool -- featuring trippy luminous green water and yellow decking reminiscent of Hockney -- and Forest, which might remind some of Zeng Hao’s recent offering at BCA. Stealing the show in this room, however, and arguably the other as well, was a skillful seven-panel landscape drawing by Zhang Dun. Described in the exhibition text as ‘elegant and rational', this shows a wonderful piece of draughtsmanship in which the artist has depicted a desolate scene of train tracks, dormant buildings, trees and open gates and fences in the snow. The solid forms are drawn with taut line and perspective, but it is the snow that lies around them and the subtle, untraversed dips and imprints in it that are so sensitively and patiently drawn.
There was one piece by Su Zhiguang. If the word ‘heterodoxy’ – the title of this ink painting – could be expressed visually, perhaps this is how it would look: a vastly intricate, abstract knot of pattern that in places seems to threaten to morph into a kind of monster or rampant plant: definitely against the imposed order of orthodoxy of whatever kind one might choose. Floating on a dull brown background, this dark green, festering thing is introverted and unresolved, pursuing directions that lead in on themselves and engender hundreds of tiny lines. Against this entanglement, four digital prints by Zhu Changhai place objects like a Buddha statue on a spinning turntable and are somewhat repetitive – slick but lacking a deeper ‘hook’ for the viewer beyond pure kinetics. The show’s only video piece held attention for the stories it related, though the visuals, again, might not draw the gaze. In Family Album, Ye Funa lifts photographs from family albums, employing actors who don old clothes and stand against old backgrounds from the times of the photos, acting as the people in them. The actors stay quite still save for minor facial expressions and their mouths, which mime speech as the voices of old people – they of the original portraits – are dubbed on top. The seventh artist in the exhibition was Mi Mai, who creates brightly-coloured abstract inkjet compositions that are reminiscent sometimes of satellite maps or stellar constellations; their splintered splashes of pigment are made using an original technique devised by the artist.
-- Iona Whittaker
(All images courtesy of Chambers Fine Art and the aritsts.)