Telescope: China | Yu Honglei

August 6, 2015
– By James Elaine

Sketch was on view at Telescope May 30, 2015–July 26, 2015.

Beijing artist Yu Honglei’s work is generally derived from the everyday objects in his life, redefined through his unique vision, and presented with new identities and functions. Yu’s new project at Telescope seeks the middle ground between conception and realization of art objects.  Telescope becomes a window into his art studio and his working process where everything is in flux: full of the possibilities for transcendence as well as failure. Where does art begin and end?

Artists often work in obscurity in the studio creating artwork that will later be seen by the public in a different setting, usually a gallery or museum space. Even though the work can make this transition successfully it can still be somewhat out of context. Yu capitalizes on this odd relationship transferring not only his studio materials but also his ideas, emotions, personal narratives, and working processes to Telescope Sketch is an artwork and at the same time it is not. Pieces of what might be unfinished sculptures are shrouded in sheets like furniture in an abandoned mansion. Whether they are just being protected from the elements and time or they are the art works, these mysterious forms add a compelling yet hazy narrative to the installation. Common materials accumulated over time that might be found in any artist’s studio stand in as sculptures. They are familiar and yet defy direct understanding of what they mean except that they are part and parcel of the studio production process. A video screen flashes fractured scenes from his studio documenting his processes of collecting, thinking, and assembling. Sealed and open crates perhaps containing ‘finished’ art works lie silent on the floor waiting to be shipped. An eerie blue light bathes an entire room and all of its contents. Maybe some of these objects have become finished pieces by just changing their context? Maybe they are just the pedestals or frames that present art or the artists personal story? We don’t know and it is not important to figure that out. The hidden gems of Sketch lay somewhere in-between all of these notions in the relationships between the materials used in making his art. The shapes, sizes, colours, textures, and identities of the objects and how they are juxtaposed with each other all together produce strange and beautiful landscapes as found in memories and dreams. Yu’s installation offers another way of experiencing art: to see the beginning, the process and all of the by-products of his art production, and possibly the end all at the same time but to never really know where we are standing on that timeline. Sketch is a record of the time, music, refuse, energy of the artist’s ways of thinking and sense of being as he works in his studio.