Current Exhibitions

Gao Ludi: Overwrite


Curated by Shen Chen

From 29 October 2023 to 1 January 2024, Long Museum (West Bund) presents Gao Ludi's exhibition 'Overwrite', curated by Shen Chen, showcasing a series of new paintings created by the artist in recent years.

The act of overwriting plays a critical role in Gao's recent practice, associating the material and spiritual dimensions, outstanding functions, and properties of his subjects: storage media and masks. This exceptional act also organises and summarises his painterly gestures and logic.

More than 30,000 years since the earliest known example of painting, Gao takes, as the first dimension of his recent paintings, an artistic exploration that depicts, reflects upon, and responds to the developments of storage media in modern times: floppy disks, cassettes, compact disks, memory cards, wafer chips, among others. Yet, the artist is not interested in listing these media or fetishistically representing the intricacy of their designs. For Gao, who was born in 1990, these devices that have served multiple generations are records of changes in their materiality, as science, technology, industry and consumerism develop. They are not only the means through which information is retrieved, memory etched, and feelings deposited; they also project the zeitgeist and ideological transformations, and the accelerated process of digitalising life.

Instead of simply portraying storage media as objects, Gao's recent works in 'Overwrite' also render on top of the products a layer of masks, actualising the second dimension of Gao's painterly proposition. It is a common commercial practice to cover widely circulated storage media and products of popular culture, such as CDs and DVDs, with images—figurative images such as portraits, in most cases. In the new series of paintings, Gao worked specifically with masks as covers. As a form of concealment, masks are used widely in various scenarios including rituals, performances, and punishments, essentially functioning in these ways: as disguise and replacement; temporally stripping the wearer of their identity or consciousness; empowering the masked in a specific role; beautifying, uglifying or even totally effacing a face. The executioner's mask in Restructure A, the beauty mask in New Life, and the mask worn by rumour spreaders as a punishment in the Middle Ages in Collage – masks drawn from archives and popular culture – are themselves storage media de facto. Gao highlights the mask's function as a spiritual medium or a vehicle for consciousness, suggesting the ways in which an individual is gradually replaced by an increasingly flattening mask or persona in the digital age.

Creating the new paintings, Gao transforms the process of painting into an act of overwriting: vibrant colours in contrast, resembling the physical compartmentalisation of storage media, squeeze, overlay, and rewrite one another. As fragments in a gestaltist process, the storage media and the masks above together form a completeness that is positively destabilised. In a society where 'the medium is the metaphor' (Neil Postman), the act of overwriting is arguably the most compelling metaphor for modern media and masks. The gestures it choreographs in Gao's art pertain to the mutually constructive process that builds upon painting methods, storage media and masks on both material and spiritual dimensions. They are also a perpetuated simulation of the digitalisation and alienation of life.

Gao Ludi (b. 1990, Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China) received his BFA in Oil Painting at the Institute for Fine Arts at Capital Normal University (Beijing) in 2013. He was featured on the list of "30 Under 30 Asia 2019" by Forbes. He currently lives and works in Beijing, China.


About the Artist

The art of Gao Ludi goes hand in glove with his reflections on the condition of our times. By rethinking the culture of "the image" (tuxiang) in a contemporary context, he links the practice of painting to an exceptional kind of physical activity of which the principal function is to deal with "residual stuff". This is the main channel for the transmission of images. To a large extent, social media influence the most basic ways in which images are generated. The daily, disciplined sharing of individual information by the masses has incrementally added physical meaning to the image, allowing it to depart from the mere domain of aesthetics and spread out into the physical domain. Keywords here are "daily", "high frequency" and "disciplined". The artist departs from readily available, unprocessed original images, subjecting their everyday aesthetic to tongue-in-cheek analysis and misappropriation. Hence, the artist's works don't just operate within the complex history of painting and photography in the modern and contemporary age: their physicality also envelops them with a kind of fluorescent halo.

About the curator

Shen Chen is a curator based in Beijing and works at White Space. Previously, he was curator at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and nominator for the Jimei × Arles International Photo Festival, the Abigail Cohen Fellowship by Magnum Foundation, and the Vontobel sponsorship prize. He holds an MFA in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan; an M.S. in New Media from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong; and a B.A. in International Politics from Peking University, Beijing. His curatorial projects include: “On Methods – Solo-Exhibition by Candida Höfer” (2015), “Chinese Photography: Twentieth Century and Beyond” (2015), “Scripts of the Bodies” (2016), “Kassel Photobook Festival & Éditions Bessard | Beijing Special Exhibition” (2016), “Katarzyna Kozyra Solo Exhibition” (2016), “Profound Silence” (2017), “40 Years of Chinese Contemporary Photography (1976-2017)” (2017), “Phantom Pain Clinic” (2017), “Ten Directions: The 10th Anniversary of the Three Shadows Photography Award” (2018), “A White Space Odyssey” (2019), “Étude” (2020), “A Higher Calling” (2021), "Li Liao: the Wife Went to Start a Business" (2023), among others. In 2019, his curatorial project "Sunset on a Dead End - The Notorious and Their Inexplicable Modes of Existence" earned the grand prize for the "Emerging Curators Project" at the Power Station of Art.

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