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Song Kun

June 6, 2007 - October 16, 2007

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Beijing-based artist Song Kun’s painting series It’s My Life (2005–06) examines the minutiae of daily existence. For an entire year she created one painting a day, rendering a collection on canvas of the concerns, fears, desires, and confusion experienced by her and the newly emerging generation in China. Influences from Chinese landscape painting, animé, and traditional still life by European masters are suggested in the work. Song Kun offers viewers a portal into her inner life through elliptical narratives and moody moments rendered with a lush, sometimes despondent beauty. For her first solo exhibition in the US, this Hammer Projects installation features a selection of paintings from the entire series of three hundred and sixty-five.

About the Exhibition

Song Kun: It’s My Life

 

By David Spalding

A founding member of the N12 group—twelve ambitious young graduates of Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts who have been organizing their own annual exhibitions since 2003—artist Song Kun was educated after the Cultural Revolution and raised in an era of accelerated urban and economic development. As a result, she and her compatriots are articulating new visual languages to express concerns that are less overtly political than those of their predecessors. Song’s It’s My Life (2005–6) is an enormous installation originally composed of 365 small canvases, each representing a day in the artist’s year. The paintings are grouped more or less in chronological order, in grids that stretch across the gallery’s walls. Far more than an oil-on-canvas blog, It’s My Life offers viewers a series of elliptical narratives and moody moments rendered with a lush, sometimes despondent beauty, becoming a case study in how painting can elevate the quotidian.

A melancholic fog clouds many of Song’s works, making them feel like slightly out of focus snapshots in which the air hangs thick and heavy, weighed down by a sense of loss. Flashes of light reflect back at the viewer, cutting through the haze and sharply contouring surfaces such as skin, metal, and glass. It’s a technical trick that turns emotionally charged details into symbols in a vivid, fleeting dream. One particularly poignant painting depicts a young couple riding their bicycles through the moonlit night, enveloped in a mist that renders the image part fading memory, part wistful fantasy. In a diptych a man and a woman face each other in profile, sitting beside the windows of a train or airplane, illuminated by a mottled gray light. They seem to be contemplating the distance as it unfolds between them. Such images capture the simultaneous desire and inability to say goodbye characterizing the artist’s overall relationship to the past, a weary nostalgia that shadows the entire installation. More

David Spalding is a curator at the Ullens Center for the Arts, Beijing, and the China correspondent for Artforum. His writing about contemporary art appears regularly in magazines, books, and exhibition catalogues.

 

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