Steve Tobin's "Everything Grows" on view at Shanghai Station 1907
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Steve Tobin's "Everything Grows" on view at Shanghai Station 1907
Exhibition view of Steve Tobin's solo exhibition "Everything Grows" 2023.11.30 - 2024.1.20 Shanghai Station 1907 Kaidian.

SHANGHAI.- He gave up becoming a physicist and, turning around, exploded into the realm of new visual science.

In the brief personal introduction of Steve Tobin, the most intriguing story is his selection as the research assistant to award-winning physicist Campbell Laird. This seemingly unrelated experience to art is, however, a crucial turning point in the 66-year life journey of the artist. It laid a profound interdisciplinary theoretical foundation for his innovative "visual science."

Mathematics serves as the foundation of science, providing a precise and logically strong means of expression that helps scientists better understand and explain natural phenomena. Simultaneously, it aided Steve Tobin in establishing his own artistic language and working methods. For Tobin, mathematics is not just a tool; it is the foundational methodology.

"The Big Bang" by Steve Tobin

The "Big Bang" series is made of ceramics and glass that are reborn in the explosion of sparks. Ceramics and glass are containers, explosives are means, and explosions are media. Their combined effect freezes time into pieces of "processes." sculpture. The work is a metaphor for the paradox of collapse and beauty that occurs when things undergo large-scale changes, and writes an artistic allegory about the breakthrough evolution in the future.

Tobin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1957. He graduated from Tulane University in theoretical mathematics and became a research assistant to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Campbell Laird amid fierce competition. According to the original trajectory, Tobin may have become a world-renowned scientist, but he chose to become an artist.

In 2016, taking advantage of the "China·Shanghai Jing'an International Sculpture Exhibition", Tobin's works came to China for the first time, which aroused strong response at that time. On November 30, 2023, Tobin's solo exhibition "All Things Grow" curated by Luofu Zi Public Art opened to the public at Station 1907. The audience is invited to experience the power of nature and the infinite creativity of the artist from a first-person perspective.

"Conversations with Time" by Steve Tobin

Human beings have created letters and words to complete functions such as communication, communication, and narration. Through communication, human beings have gradually integrated and understood each other. Human beings and cities are also heading towards a better tomorrow in the contact of civilization.

In "Everything Grows," Tobin has created a series of stunning sculptural works that stand out for their monumental scale and masterful craftsmanship. Each work seems to be a part of nature, allowing viewers to marvel at the wonder and diversity of nature.

The influence of nature on Tobin can be traced back to when he was 7 years old, when his family moved to Villanova, Pennsylvania, an area full of forests and wild animals. Tobin holed up in the backyard treehouse his father built and cooked over a campfire under the oak trees. Gradually, he became addicted to being alone with nature, and even felt that "I am more harmonious with nature."

In Tobin's mind, he is using nature to create works. While studying theoretical mathematics, he also explored art, music and philosophy. This deep interdisciplinary foundation laid the foundation for his logical thinking and practical abilities. While most contemporary artists use technology as a major component of their art, Tobin is an exception.

"The Time Teller" by Steve Toibin

"Time Teller" is composed of thousands of records stored in American archives. Tobin "rescued" them when they were about to be discarded and gave them new life in the form of lighthouses. It is the home of disappearing art and the auditorium of eternal bloom.

Tobin used his knowledge of mathematics and physics to invent highly innovative techniques that harnessed the inherent forces and complex patterns of nature to create his own unique art form. As early as the turn of the century, he created a new artistic term for his works - visual science - using scientific methods to convey eternity in art history.

Steve Tobin "Conversation with Time" (top) "Nature"

The "Nature" series combines and collages elements from nature, retaining every realistic detail, and presents a magical, sporty inner dynamic, allowing "respecting nature and cherishing things" to be implemented in every work of art.

"Eternal Beauty" by Steve Toibin

Tobin regards artistic creation as a way and method of self-observation and understanding. He outlines a unique illusory realm from his affectionate gaze on reality and dreams, expressing his respect for eternity and beauty, and celebrating the human creative spirit.

The "Big Bang" series is made of ceramics and glass that were reborn in the explosion of sparks. It is an experimental work about the movement from order to chaos. The Milky Way was created in the Big Bang, and the Earth is like the crystallization after the explosion. The development of the universe contains the logic from "breaking" to "establishing". In Tobin's creation, the "universe" after the explosion presents a colorful "world", which is also the artist's inner world, from which the incomparable and beautiful nature is born.

"The Big Bang" is also the beginning of the solo exhibition "The Growth of All Things", from "Nature" to "The Sound of Growth", and then from "People·Follow·Crowd" to the vision of "Dialogue with Time", and then enters the "History of Urban Painting" " and "Eternal Beauty", the exhibition presents a historical picture of the evolution of the earth and the development of civilization.

"Jade Gate" by Steve Tobin

Flowing liquids and unstable textures constitute the "Yumen Pass" series. The artist's creative inspiration comes from the Chinese "jade", and uses "jade" to convey natural information, poetry, and stories to humans. The rich connotation contained in "jade" serves as a mysterious door for communication between man and nature, opening up the mysterious power of the universe.

As the origin of the earth, the "Big Bang" is also an important technique in Tobin's creation. He loved and was good at detonating all kinds of materials. He embedded a firework or a stick of dynamite in a block of clay, and his extraordinary explosive works perfectly expressed the basic method of Tobin. “I saw that exploding clay works were created in much the same way that the universe was created, that it was the same physics that created galaxies, volcanoes or hot springs,” Tobin told Art Chestnut.

"The Sound of Growth" by Steve Tobin

The "Sound of Growth" series is a work in which the artist perfectly combines the beauty of nature with the gentle expression of art. The "roots" rooted in the soil and the huge "root system" grow on the land of the city and breed great civilizations.

"Follow the Crowd" by Steve Tobin

"People, Conformity, Crowd" is a series of ink and wash works on paper created by Tobin inspired by the Chinese character "人" and the art of calligraphy. With the help of the medium of calligraphy, it reveals the humanistic spirit of support and unity.

Time and trajectory are frozen in the moment of explosion in Tobin's works, whether made of clay or glass, it is as if the moment is frozen by magic - an instant of eternity. Preserving ephemeral elements permanently and finding the perfect balance between eternity and ephemerality is Tóibín’s artistic magic.

In the "Time Teller" series, glass slides record stories and events of the development of human history, representing the most advanced way of preserving "memory" at the time. With the development of science and technology, artists "save" them when they are about to be discarded, transforming them from being forgotten to being cherished, and giving them new vitality.

"Living Platform" transforms nuts and bolts from functional tools into beautiful natural forms, becoming beautiful outerwear to decorate the table. Their attachment method is like the growth of coral under the sea, layer by layer. They give up their original identities (nuts and bolts) and evolve from individuals into wholes, creating the beauty of life in the collective.

The ink work "People, Conformity, Crowd" in this "All Things Grow" solo exhibition and the public art work "The Sound of Growth" standing in front of the West Bund Center in Block C of West Bund Financial City show another clue of Tobin's creation. ——Thinking about civilization.

Tobin's use of the structure of the Chinese character "人" comes from the artist's obsession with Chinese culture and philosophy. The simplicity contained in each stroke deeply attracted the artist. He believes that the Chinese character "人" is full of wisdom. With one stroke and two simple strokes, a vivid image appears on the paper. It is simple and simple, and at the same time shows the humanistic spirit of mutual support.

Tobin's use of the structure of the Chinese character "人" comes from the artist's obsession with Chinese culture and philosophy. The simplicity contained in each stroke deeply attracted the artist. He believes that the Chinese character "人" is full of wisdom. With one stroke and two simple strokes, a vivid image appears on the paper. It is simple and simple, and at the same time shows the humanistic spirit of mutual support.

The dancing lines in the calligraphy inspired Tobin’s memory of music. The huge and hard steel structures were transformed into organic and graceful lines. They seemed to be human beings engaged in various production and life. The pulsation of nature was on these cold metals. Burst out the brilliance of humanity and the humanistic spirit.

The brilliance of human nature and the rationality of science and technology merge and coexist in Tobin's works. This solo exhibition was chosen to start at Station 1907, Block G, West Bund Financial City, which is also very meaningful.

Steve Tobin's "The Great Explosion of the Universe" (front) "The Nature of Food and Sex" (back)

"The Nature of Food and Color" is a different kind of fun that emerges from the artist's exploration of materials. Let the works of art present the status of "familiar strangers", let us turn a blind eye to daily life and daily food, unfold another perspective of expression, and appreciate the essence of art through phenomena.

Since Xuhui District proposed the "West Bund Cultural Corridor" brand project strategy at the end of 2011, more than ten years later, this waterfront corridor has not only become a cultural landmark in Shanghai, but also a gathering place for global contemporary art. Station 1907, which will be opened at the end of 2023, is the northernmost starting point of the commercial line and will be transformed from the old site of "Nanpo Station" built in 1907. Nanpu Railway Station is the result of the early integration of China and the West. It is precisely because our ancestor Xu Guangqi broke through tradition and vigorously called for the pioneers of the spread of Western learning to the east.

A blend of Chinese and Western elements, breaking through tradition, this scene was staged in an artistic way a hundred years later at the old Nanpu Railway Station. The advancement of science and technology not only brings challenges to the relationship between humans and nature, but also provides new possibilities for recording and continuing civilization. For Tobin, artistic creation is also the transmission of civilization. In the "Dialogue with Time" series, the artist condenses numbers and letters cast in bronze together, like a letter left to the future - bearing the mark of this generation's civilization.

Text|Zhang Xinxin, Zhang Huohuo

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