XU Bacheng: Island of Immortality

27 July - 13 October 2019 Shanghai
Press release

Arario Gallery Shanghai is honored to present young artist Xu Bacheng's solo exhibition, Island of Immortality from July 27 to October 13, 2019. 


One of the Arario Gallery Shanghai's ongoing missions is to discover and nurture outstanding young Chinese artists. On this occasion, we are pleased to feature the projects of these two artists of the same age, marked by their stylistic difference. One is from the north and the other the south, respectively Xu Bacheng's Island of Immortality and Wen Yipei's Staging. Xu Bacheng studied in Hangzhou. Upon graduating from the high school of the China Academy of Art, he enrolled in the oil painting department to complete his BFA and MFA degrees before becoming a lecturer at the academy. For this exhibition, not only his epic large-scale painting Island of Immortality will be on view, the installations, videos, and other artistic mediums he adopted expand the unique world he has depicted in the painting.


The work eponymous to the title of this exhibition, Island of Immortality, took two years to complete. This oil painting measuring 12 meters long by 3 meters high, in which he depicted 360 figures morphed from his own image. These figures range from astronauts to butcher, fisherman to hunter, surveyors to diviners, figures engaged in picnicking by the river to casting spells on each other, from looking out to the oceans to lamenting of what's insight, without any trace of industrial civilization, seems to constitute a self-contained world. As it is mentioned in the curator Du Xiyun's text, "The information overload accelerated our realization on the darkness of the human condition and the chaos of the world. In emphasizing the cultural ground for collectivism, XU Bacheng realized the value of the individual. Like the processor of a digital device, he openly collects various dark and desolate information, and by putting them through his software, optimistic and proactive energy is engendered to stimulate an individual's creativity. "


The large dimensional painting Island of Immortality is a sensitive representation of his worldview. This overall system is akin to an experimental site, where every self-action can be metaphorically construed as a stimulant for "spiritual energy ". How eternal is the Island of Immortality? The artist embarked on the experiment to convert and regenerate "energy" on the tableau. This process includes steps such as collecting, transferring, distributing, consuming, ones are not necessarily adopted from industrial production, but are alternative possibilities to achieve "energy conversion" through the studies of painting.


Looking across this painting, the artist departs from the "metaphors" of an individual's various actions such as, biting on one's nails, dancing with the wolves or screaming while waving flags, these absurd behaviors associated with arbitrary narrative details span from practical survival need to the pursuit of spiritual reforms. At the same time, different types of "self-organization" are alienated into "community" on an isolated island. The artist hopes to re-address the phenomenon of the "cultural desert" to the viewers, and the complex issues embedded in it. At the same time, the staged "architectures" on the tableau serve as a draft for the installations in this exhibition. Xu imagines a theater about an island. Many of the figurative elements in the painting are translated as installations or known as "installation of painting". As such, the paintings resonate with the installations to conjure an overall notion of "site". In a sense, XU Bacheng has successfully translated the dimensions of spatiality into the length of temporality, allowing the work to contain its traces of self-growth, as well as expanding in the exhibition venue, that would be transported between the quotidian and art, artist and viewers. 


From the drawings of the student years to his current practice, the series Love Saves Life is an oil painting developed in 2019 based on a number of drawings down in 1999. For Xu Bacheng, drawing is means of straightforward self-expression. For this exhibition, more than one hundred works in small-dimension are orderly hung on a wall, through which the artist responds to the present phenomenon of information overload with such large volume of works.


Looking back at XU Bacheng's previous presentations, his complex, sophisticated installations have always left viewers with compelling impressions. From Castle without Sky, Art Museum on the Move, to Sanlitun in One Thousand Years, Magical Theatre to the latest Island of Immortality, his practice has always focused on translating artistic language to everyday linguistic system, as well as maintaining sharp thoughts and passionate interests in spatial notions, without losing acute observations of social environment and cultural life. He captures those implicit essence from the vicissitudes of multiple realities, with which to unfurl reflections and outlooks between the present the future, the individual and the collective.


As the curator Du Xiyun state, "Seeing the world through a flower, Xu Bacheng is a man of his own world."

Installation Views