acrylic, marker, oil crayon on canvas
200 x 190 cm
UCCA Edge, Shanghai, 2023
Exhibition Link | UCCA
Introduction by curator Shixuan Luan:
Rooted in iconographic research, Ce Jian’s work explores the tensions between drafting and painting and raises questions about meaning and form. Her paintings in this exhibition, such as the Sisters, Demoiselles, Sphinx, and Hydra pieces, use mannequins and industrial robots as meta-images to explore the structural similarities and potential for deformation of various visual schema. Jian paints these lifeless, hollow bodies and giant mechanical robots as deformed almost beyond recognition. Although these figures exist only as visual specimens without personal histories, their anthropomorphic appearance imbues the absurd scenes with a strange sense of life and oppressive tension.
Jian’s research on the body spans time and region, ranging from prehistoric creatures and mythical monsters to contemporary robots and cyborgs. What these bodies have in common is their hybridity and variability. The mythical Sphinx — a half-human, half-beast monster — has body parts drawn from multiple species as well as superhuman powers and intelligence, and therein lies its danger. In Jian’s series, industrial robots sometimes comprise organic and inorganic materials, such as propellers, bones, and conches, while elsewhere they combine to form the dreaded nine-headed Hydra of Greek mythology. Towering over an apocalyptic landscape, it appears as an idolized subject, exhibiting its power through its dramatic posture. This imagery offers a subtle critique of the ideologies embedded within technologies, as well as how they have come to colonize art.