September 24, 2023

Absurdistan: A country of its own, Shanghai, by Anne Murray

Remember what it was like to grow sugar crystals in science class?  Well, this show will help you recall it and to see the world through a prism of mischief with everything from surreal loaves of bread composed of half crystal, half dough, to centipedes moving on human fingers.  With a combination of Chinese and international artists, OV Gallery has put together a curiously intriguing show in a myriad of media.

Absurdistan is like a country all it’s own, strangely familiar, but where the rules of physics, emotion and logic seem to turn over on their side and give you a sense of vertigo.  Historically, the word was used to describe the former USSR, but here it doesn’t seem to have that specific a reference, rather more of a connection to the Surrealists, as though their work formed the foundation of an artist’s utopia.

To begin, the work of Ang Sookoon, Your Love is Like a Chunk of Gold (Seminola) Bread, is a combination of real bread and crystal growth rather than mold, and it has a strange juxtaposition of texture, and symbolism.  The crystals are both shocking and enticing like icicles and create a rather odd representation of love. Bread as a familiar item, something comforting, while the crystals are sweet but appear painful, as if they could burst through and break your heart.

Chen Xi Jet Turtle
Chen Xi, Jet Turtle. Photo Anne Murray

Chen Xi’s Jet Turtle, brings to mind a both chimeric and comic view of the absurd along with his centipede with prosthetic fingers, Run Swine Run, both composed in delicately rendered Chinese ink.  The strange juxtaposition of ideas in these bizarre creatures forces you to look longer, especially with their intricate lines and Frankenstein combinations.

Anyone who has ever been to Shanghai will have a laugh when they see the work of Christina Schmigel, Heavy Load, a sculpture that is almost a cultural icon of daily life in this cosmopolitan and vibrant city. A combination of a miniature wire bicycle and an enormous pile of recycled Styrofoam, which it tows on an overloaded cart, makes for a humorous scene echoing an everyday moment, even with a few pieces of Styrofoam scattered around it as if the piece is really moving and things won’t stay balanced.  Inhabitants have all witnessed this scene many times on the streets here in Shanghai.

Leung Chi Wo Sign video still 1
Leung Chi Wo Sign video still, photo Anne Murray

One of the most striking pieces is a video by artist Leung Chi Wo, entitled, Sign. Composed of two parts, Part I is more instructional with a teacher explaining baby sign language in Australian sign language or Auslan.  Part II is more shocking with a sweet scene of a mother and child on a bright sunny day, contrasting against the everyday words from the news which she teaches to her child in sign.  Words like terrorism, air strike, ethnic cleansing, are but a few of these thoughts conveyed through gesture and taken from the newspaper.  Overall, it is an amazing piece of work, in its originality and poignant illustration of today’s concerns.

Cronopios and Famas,  by Ailadi Cortelletti, is more of a theme than just one piece, with several illustrations of a book by Julio Cortázar, her characters are on opposing philosophical sides each with their own way of living.  The Famas are the puritanical obssessive compulsive family wrapping their memories up in orderly fashion, with labels and tidiness.  The Cronopios are wild things, coexisting with their memories, as personified creatures that walk and breathe.  The Cronopios also have a chimeric shape, part bird, part fish, part human, they seem to have the facility to move through any surface, land or sea. The neighbors, appearing in scenes as different animal types, are always complaining about the Cronopios and their boisterous movements.   Cortelletti uses collage, acrylic, ink and monoprint in oil on paper, which makes one think of Max Ernst and Joseph Cornell.  Cortelletti’s colors are simple and clear, her line graphic, but tenderly rendered, her background in design shows through a little, and her sense of humor pervades.

Orianne Zanone Tripod
Orianne Zanone Tripod. Photo, Anne Murray

The works of Orianne Zanone, Qian Rong, Savinder Bual, Melissa A. Thompson, and Linda Duvall, also form a part of Absurdistan, this mythical country, each adding their own medium, each with an interesting twist on reality. The show is really a great collection and curation of contemporary trends in Surrealism and the absurdity of today’s reality.

by Anne Murray

Until April 4th.

OV Gallery
Room 207, Building 4A, No. 50, Moganshan Lu,
Shanghai, China
Opening Hours:
Tues-Sunday 10.30am-6pm

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