LONG MUSEUM WEST BUND
From January 13th to March 24th, 2024, Long Museum (West Bund) presents the first major solo museum exhibition of Yuan Fang. Curated by Yang Jian, this exhibition features more than twenty new paintings, along with several works on paper, by the artist.
Yuan Fang’s works reveal a grandiose visual disposition and gentle retrospection, similar to the trickle of emotions that always flows under the rushing of the grand historical time and space; in it, the massive horizontal and vertical visual movement represents the journey of life, which only continues to move forward and does not return to the past. The gyrating flow of images keeps on entwining here ever so distinctly, and the passage of time and space encompasses profound emotions of her own. The artist perceives herself as intertwined with diverse cultural experiences and a diverged awareness of identity. At the same time, the physical experience of diaspora prevents her physiological perception and the images of movement from being entangled again, leaving her no choice but to prolong intricately, to inextricably linger with the past but also to firmly grasp the future, gradually expanding to infinity.
An already classical art paradigm, the formalism of abstraction and its underlying concept are the major focus of attention, which we define as a Eurocentric art style with universalistic quality. Yet, here, Fang has been pursuing the possibility of the extraordinary beyond the universal; through creating works associated with ideas of body, landscape, space-time, and symbols, she reconstructs the connection between abstraction and the surrounding world while emphasising that, rooted in the experience of reality, there is no such thing as pure form, and that the formal nature of abstraction dictates how it reflects the experience of reality. In other words, abstraction an array of possible responses to social, political, and cultural change, beyond the formally iterative accounts of art historical narratives.
In her work, Fang expresses a nuanced comprehension of the specific circumstances of globalization and personal cultural identity, as well as the complexity of the subsequent state of displacement, while simultaneously exploring and preserving the universality of the human experience and the aesthetics of painting in pursuit of the most immediate resonance in her practice. Before moving to New York at the age of eighteen, her experience growing up in Shenzhen, a special economic zone, encouraged her to embrace a more global and eclectic approach to Western culture and values, which at the time was the dominant and distinctly American. In addition, being raised in one of the most intensely urbanised cities in the world at the time has fostered in her a progressivist discourse that is in a state of constant change. However, once she had arrived in New York, a real global and diverse city, the racially conscious context prompted her to revisit her cultural identity and ideological foundation. Her expatriate experience of searching for a revisit and a sense of dislocation to her heritage has created a compelling motivation for her to examine and actively establish her cultural identity.
When it comes to the choice of palette, for example, Fang insists on introducing into her work some palettes that are not considered compatible or even peculiar to the public and refusing to mix the colours at a time when the palette of colours can be easily blended in different methods or by technical measure to be pleasing to the eye. Perhaps this can be attributed to her awakening of individual sensibilities and nature as a post-1995 Chinese woman striving to establish herself alone in the intense environment of New York. In the current global cultural context, the best approach to engagement and inclusion is not to submit to the social system to conform to the majority but rather to manifest uniqueness and proactively search for encounters, the method for strangers to dissipate nostalgia and form a fortified habitat. More often than not, the major inclusiveness of the world is reserved for the influential and the capable, with only merciful solicitude for the weak and the subservient. The index of these colour palettes originates from Fang’s choice of the ones remaining in traditional Chinese mural paintings after the grace of time and nature; they are not the original colours used in the paintings, but under the polishing of time and the refinement of nature, they do present a new possibility of aesthetics. I believe that as an emerging Chinese artist who has been somewhat removed from the Chinese cultural milieu, Yuan Fang’s identity and cultural consciousness, provoked by meeting East Asian collections like the aforementioned in Western art institutions, were the initial motivation for all of her decisions.
About the Artist
Yuan Fang (b. 1996, Shenzhen, China) is an artist lives and works in New York. She graduated from the Visual and Critical Studies Program at the School of Visual Arts in 2019 and received Rhodes Family Award for Outstanding Achievement and several scholarships. She received her MFA from the same institution in 2022. Fang’s practice is spurred by a detachment of the self from the external environment. Growing up and living in rapidly developing cities, she has constantly experienced the anxiety and insecurity projected by her surroundings through the constant flux of identity perceptions and the shifting nature of the outside world. For her, all changes can be tangible physical experience that is authentic and vivid.
As one of the most promising post-1995 Chinese artists in the world, Fang’s works have been acquired by many museums, institutions, and collections, including Long Museum, ICA Miami, Lafayette Anticipations, The Flag Art Foundation, Green Family Art Foundation, Green Rapids Art Museum, Mint Museum, Inima de Paula Museum, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, He Art Museum, and X Museum.
About the Curator
As a curator, Yang Jian studies and writes about art history and the mechanism of the art industry with a research and curatorial focus on Asian artists worldwide from a local perspective. Dedicated to presenting extensible cases of artists that reflect the times by means of visualization and in a social dimension to maximize their functions as artists, Yang Jian attempts to draw a map of art that can highlight the contemporary times in history with different personal histories which have developed on different layers of art yet in similar contexts of time and space.