Art+ Shanghai Gallery invited artist duo Tamen to set up a new solo exhibition at their venue. The display, Outside Within opened to the public on April 25 and will be reside until June 29 2014.
The exhibition presents Tamen’s new works of oil on canvas, that incorporate tradition via Chinese architecture, characters and animals and shape a sense of distance, expanse, and introspection.
Having emerged from the strict confines of the Same Room series that defined them for so long, artist collective Tamen explores new landscapes that verge on metaphysical discursions of identity, context, and cultural knowledge. Tamen’s exhibition Outside Within presents vast open scenes with a sense of philosophical interiority, while displaying the same eerie serenity and complex thresholds that have come to define their aesthetic.
In these new paintings, the duo illustrates a progression from the tension- and symbol-filled juxtapositions of earlier works. The obvious clashes of Western and Eastern motifs in the Same Room series have been replaced with a more harmonious questioning and ink-painting aesthetic while forever remaining in the space of the present and Western style.
Outside Within challenges perspective and boundaries; looking into their paintings and out into the world from their paintings, Tamen savors such cognitive dissonance with a matured understanding of time and place. Outside Within draws audiences to not only look at the works, but to look further into them. Lacking formal walls, Tamen continues to create windows: thresholds between the past and future, inside and out, present and possibility.
Tamen is an artist collective formed in 2002 by artists Lai Shengyu and Yang Xiaogang, who were born in China’s Hunan Province in 1978 and 1979, respectively. Both received post-graduate degrees in 2004 from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in the Department of Printmaking and are currently based in Beijing working at Beihang University (BUAA) in the Department of New Media Art.
They have gained acclaim in China and abroad for their Same Room series of paintings, and have since shifted towards exterior scenes in natural landscapes, displaying Western-style painting techniques and thought-provoking conceptualizations.
The duo has traveled widely and rejects contemporary society’s infatuation with the individual by seamlessly collaborating on and co-painting each work. They trust that “different ways of thinking and values are exactly what we need to produce images that are one-of-a-kind.”
We wanted to find out from the duo what is the biggest challenge of working together in the art-making process.
“Our works are all quite narrative; the biggest challenge for us is to create the story with the scene. We never know the end of the story; the uncertainty and feeling of unknown is the supreme challenge.” They replied.
When asked if there is any other medium that could convey the same message as their paintings of Outside Within with the same eloquence, Tamen responded that they “always wanted to make a narrative film.”
As they work with new media thanks to their academic careers, we asked if they can take a photo (or more) that can send the same message or have the same atmosphere as the works of Outside Within and this is what the collective provided as a response:
Lai Shengyu and Yang Xiaogang’s collaborations are part of the new trend of Chinese contemporary art where thought exercises are staged on canvas. Tamen has held numerous solo exhibitions in Beijing, New York, Seoul, the Netherlands, and has participated in a range of art fairs including Art Cologne, Art Beijing, Art Dubai, Art HK, and SH Contemporary. The collective has been featured in publications such as Young Chinese Artists: The Next Generation, and their work can be found in the collections of the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum (Beijing), White Rabbit Collection (Sydney), and Essl Museum (Vienna).
When asked where in the world they aspire to get their works more well-known, the duo responded: “Of course we hope we will have a wider range of audience, not only the people in art world, but more people from various of fields can see our works, because our expectation is to express the collective feelings and memory of the era.”
We do not want to spoil the surprise and we won’t share any images with the actual works (you can, however, find them on the internet, if you want to pry), and we invite you to immerse into the Outside Within world of Tamen at Art+ Shanghai Gallery.
Outside Within: New Works by Tamen
Exhibition Duration: April 25 – June 29, 2014
Art+ Shanghai Gallery // Embankment Building – G/F, 370 North Suzhou Rd // Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 7pm (Closed on Mondays) // Phone: +86 21 5608 6067 / [email protected]
By Andreea Dragut
[Photos by Tamen]