Tsubakiyama Gallery is pleased to present "Monologue 1992-2001: Experimental Painting of Wang Baolei" in the exhibition space and Artsy View Room. The exhibition includes twenty-nine works in mixed media or oil created between 1992 and 2001.
..n not the opportunity preparing for the exhibition of Baolei’s paintings, I probably wouldn't have looked up the old-time materials, and probably wouldn't have noticed the world outside the eyes of a teenager at that time. There are many books about the 1980s, and it seems that the 1980s were full of surging ideals and high hopes, while the 1990s seemed to be much quieter, so much so that there was a saying of "the unclaimed 1990s". During researching, it is not difficult to notice the 90s was actually full of hidden turbulence, and it eventually pushed us moving forward, towards to its continuation: the 21st century. A grain of sand of the times, perseverance became a gesture to carry on.
The 90s in China was the beginning of the market economy; most aspects of our lives today have drifted away from the 80s, but are still quite connected to the 90s. The reform of state-owned enterprises, privatization, marketization, rise of production and consumption, and opening-up, the tone of social life shifted from collective to individual, from intellectual pursuit to satisfaction of daily life. It was partially filled with the loss of uncertainty, and partially filled with the temptation of vitality. The background of all these is the difficult journey of the nation’s social and economic transformation. The seemingly unspoken 90s had a vibrant ending: it moved towards the 21st century with the wave of Internet and the song of a new era.
The 80s drew the beginning of Chinese contemporary art practice by enlightenment and reasoning; in the 90s, along with the influence of Western concept and social environment, Chinese contemporary art began to diversify, shifting from the grand narrative, mission, and rationality of the 80s to a state of deconstruction, reinvention, with a focus of personal life experiences. It was difficult to articulate the gains and losses of the decade, but it was ultimately an inevitable phase of transition: the patterns that began during the 90s, both in terms of artistic approach and business operation, are still effective as today.
Nowadays, “the purity of art” is still one of the topics we are continuously talking about. On one hand, we have accepted the market's role in supporting and promoting contemporary art, but on the other hand, we still hope artists can maintain their spiritual profundity and purity as intellectuals. We also hope in the midst of popularization and consumerization, we can still maintain in-depth thinking and experience, although – it’s being said - "the closer we get to our own time, the more difficult it is to distinguish what is a lasting achievement and what is a transient fad".
Most of Baolei’s oil paintings were created between the mid-1990s and the beginning of 2000s; with ideals not yet worn out by life, he was living in Taiyuan - a relatively peaceful city in northern China, with memories of the clear sky and simple happiness. Being aware of the changes, but relatively far from the center of the wave, Baolei’s works revealed the traces of time: peace, silence, delicacy and resilience; the stories between an artist and a city, purity and simplicity, anxiety and hesitation, are collected through his works. Today, twenty years later, although it is difficult to conceal the vicissitudes and emotions, it is still possible for us to dust off the hustle and bustle, to relive the warmth of the old days.