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The Tension between a Bow and an Elephant: Liang Yuanwei opens exhibition at Pace London
The series presented at Pace London is the result of a meticulous approach to painting.

LONDON.- Pace London presents Liang Yuanwei’s first solo exhibition with the gallery at 6-10 Lexington Street from 21 March to 26 April 2014. The Tension between a Bow and an Elephant includes eleven of Liang Yuanwei’s recent oil paintings that deepen both her formal and conceptual investigations of process and perception.

The title of the exhibition, The Tension between a Bow and an Elephant elicits Liang Yuanwei’s profound preoccupation with the constants and variables of creative production and the pressures that these exert on the artist. Like a hunter armed with a bow and arrow ready to target his or her prey, Liang views the process of painting as intensely pressure-fueled, highly contingent on both governable and ungovernable forces, conscious decisions and natural phenomena.

The series presented at Pace London is the result of a meticulous approach to painting, and one that Liang has previously employed to reach her envisioned “targets.” Working on individual strips, Liang constructs her canvases with a subtle painting technique; this usually begins by drawing on the canvas and then filling empty segments with varying colours until reaching a flat yet elegant surface.

Cézanne has manifestly been a vivid source of inspiration in Liang’s work, sharing his concerns for the shifting nature of perception, and the painterly ways in which to evoke this. Liang also draws on her Chinese heritage and, in particular, the supremely poetic images of the Song Dynasty that capture transience of beauty and evanescent pleasures. But the direct sources from which the artist works from are often the floral designs of domestic table cloths, curtains and found fabrics, marrying her art to questions of high art and commercial design, and moreover, those pertaining to gender roles and femininity.

“In my own creative practice I imitate the world, thereby understanding the world, in order to create the world. In the process of creating this body of work, the end product remains unrealized, only when the painting is finished can one comprehend its final state.” Liang Yuanwei, March 2014.

Making a departure from her early floral paintings, the series presented in The Tension between a Bow and an Elephant are a step away from the feminine hues and silky textures Liang once sought. The colours are earthier, and particularly in Untitled 2013.15, the brushwork is significantly more vigorous. All the while, Liang retains the distinctively refined, tender and delicate quality for which she is known.

Liang Yuanwei
Liang Yuanwei was born in 1977 in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province. She graduated from the School of Design at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) and was a founding member of N12, an enterprising young art collective that exhibited together in the early 2000s. Liang Yuanwei represented China at the 54th Venice Biennale, in 2011, and has participated in group exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Museum (US), Joan Miró Museum (Spain), Minsheng Art Museum (China), Taikang Space (China) etc. She has been the subject of four solo exhibitions at the Beijing Boers-Li Gallery, China in 2008, the Beijing Commune, China in 2010 and 2013. Her works have also been included in important publications including Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting by Phaidon Press, The Chinese Art Book by Phaidon Press, The Generational: Younger than Jesus by New Museum in New York City, etc.

Gender expectations in the patriarchal society of her home country have influenced Liang’s approach to conceiving and realising her art - the traditions, subjects, methods and materials she draws on. Working across various mediums including photography, found objects, installation and painting, in her first solo exhibition in 2008 Liang Yuanwei presented A Piece of Life Series (2006-08), richly textured impasto canvases that emulated the intricate designs of floral table cloths, domestic curtains and other found materials. While she has continued to employ the same method to create these oil paintings (spending up to twelve hours per day to render singular strips of an overall surface), the silky textures and feminine tones have become muddier as Liang has experimented with diptych and triptych formats to explore questions of colour relations, perception and process. More recently she has worked with all-over colour realms, eliciting American minimalist preoccupations, as well as employing lipstick as a medium in which to paint.

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