Duan Jianyu's work speaks of the tension between the urban and the rural in a rapidly industrialising China, as well as the coexistence of "high" world art histories and "low" global popular culture. Her work weaves its own obscure narratives, jux- taposing trivial everyday objects with motifs from the Eastern and Western canons of art. She tempers a sublime romantic yearning for the past and the pastoral with touches and irony and farce, through absurd situations and a painting style which avoids virtuoso gestures in favour of a homely warmth and modesty. In her own words, "I love secretly describing the details of life, apparently rationally and politely, calming them with fakes, falsities and untruths".
This exhibition includes the large painting, Muse and Museum, which she made during a two month residency in Nantes, France, 2011 at The Frac des Pays de la Loire. This painting is an excursion in the idyl of the international art residency, which offers up the seduc- tion of other cultures and art histories. Duan Jianyu responds by placing 'the museum' and 'the muse' in a nourishing and fertile landscape.
While this work highlights the attraction of travel, Duan Jianyu's paintings also tackle the flip side of this new freedom of movement, which is the sense of rootlessness that comes from mass migration. The theme of 'home' and family is introduced in the form of characters such as 'sisters, mothers, and mother's sisters and mother's cousins'. Indeed, in Chinese there is no differentiation between the word for home as place or family.
This is Duan Jianyu's first exhibition in London and will be exhibited at the same time as Sigrid Holmwood's. Even though their approach to their work is different, Duan Jianyu's and Sigrid Holmwood's philosophy has the same affinity, hence the one title "Cousins".