The concept of this exhibition is inspired by the tales “The Mural” from Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio and “The Painter” from Extensive Records of the Taiping Era. In “The Mural” Zhu Xiaolian is visiting a Buddhist temple with a friend when, “his mind shaken, his thoughts suddenly frozen,” he walks inside a mural and becomes deeply entangled in a love affair with a fairy maiden. Only after an old monk taps on the wall does he float out of the mural again. And in “The Painter” the imperial mandarin Zhao Yan buys a screen with the image of a beautiful woman. Day and night he calls out her name, Zhen Zhen. Then the beauty Zhen Zhen steps out of the screen. After the two are wed, she gives birth to a child. A friend tells Zhao Yan his wife is really a demon and urges him to kill her with a magic sword. When he enters their house with the sword, she tearfully reveals her true identity as the Fairy of the Southern Mountains. Overflowing with sorrow, she takes her child by the hand and goes back into the screen. When Zhao Yan uncovers the painting again, in addition to the image of the beautiful woman, a child has appeared as well.
These two classic stories remind us that artistic creativity possesses an infectiousness and influential power that can seem real, that can render reality and illusion indistinguishable. “The Mural” is a tale of a person transcending mundane space and time; “The Painter” is a tale of a person experiencing the extraordinary within the mundane world. In the past, art was limited by the available media, and could only be expressed on silk, paper, canvas, screen or walls. Through mythical stories, the “masterful brushes” of artists and their infectious powers spread. In the current age when the dividing line between daily life and art has vanished, this exhibition explores such dimensions as human desire, artistic emotional projection (therapy), art institutions, interpersonal relationships and social life. Through the works of 19 different contemporary artists and art groups – works with a variety of subjects and forms, such as two-dimensional art, body art, performance art, video, installation and interactive projects – it examines the two themes of “illusion imitating reality” in the future and the past and “reality imitating illusion” in our current condition. As visitors experience, participate and interact, they may see the invisible, enter the inaccessible, and discover the exceptional in everyday life. They may reconsider the meaning of reality and the nature of art within human existence and perception, and discover an ideal state of spirit and living, or a new way to imagine the future.