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Almine Rech

Children of the Image

Nov 5, 2023 – Feb 25, 2024 | Amanyangyun, Shanghai

Almine Rech collaborates with Yangyun to jointly present Children of the Image, an international contemporary art exhibition, on view until February 25, 2024, featuring the works of artists from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Italy, Serbia, and South Korea.

The participating artists include Justin Adian, Oliver Beer, Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, Erik Lindman, Rudolf Polanszky, Ryan Schneider, Turi Simeti, Vivian Springford, Kim Tschang-Yeul, and Tursic & Mille.

Installation view of Children of the Image, Group Show at Amanyangyun Shanghai

The phrase 渊澄取映 means unruffled waters allow reflection, metaphorically describing dignified and highly respected individuals who can serve as a model for others. It resembles a saying in English: still waters run deep. There is more in depth underneath the surface. A clear pool reflects back the viewer’s image, allowing for selfreflection and introspection through transparency. Like this clear pool, good artwork can allow viewers to reflect on themselves. Within the artist’s evocation of clear reflections or variegated expressions, one can contemplate the relationship between self and others and the world.

Water Drops

The four-character phrase 渊澄取映 appears in a square, regular Song typeface in Récurrence (2006) by the influential Korean monochrome painter and art master Kim Tschang-Yeul (1929— 2021) as a part of excerpts from the educational text Thousand Character Classic, with preceding characters starting from 资父事君 (sustain your father and serve your lord) and succeeding characters ending by 学优登仕 (The prize for all this study will be a well-paid and wellrespected job such as a government official), initially in a total of 68 characters but lacks several characters here in the backdrop of the painting, resembling an inscription on an orange-red abstract background.

In the foreground of the painting, precisely positioned atop the character 流, meaning flow at the center of the image, rests an iconic water drop originated by Kim. Upon closer observation, the shape and three-dimensionality of the water drop do not solely emerge from a depiction of the water drop itself. Instead, the artist skillfully portrays the optical effects of the environment surrounding the water drop, magically highlighting it like a twinkling candlelight: the comet-like tail shadow cast below the water drop, the highsaturation white highlights along the edges of the drop, and the bright yellow halo contrasting with the orange-red background, all beautifully delineate that indescribable water drop.

Lee Ufan, one of the co-founders of Dansaekjo Yesul (Korean Monotone Art) and Mono-ha (School of Things), once commented on Kim’s “water drops”: “When portraying water drops, Kim does not perceive them as mere entities but as light and shadow events... Perhaps existence and emptiness fundamentally boil down to the directional interaction of light and shadow.” This lucid commentary also reveals the profound influence of Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist philosophies on Kim’s artistic creations. Delving into the mysteries of light and shadow in his paintings leads to contemplating the distinction between existence and non-existence. The Thousand Character Classic, resembling a lightly embossed relief, resonates audibly, reciting virtues akin to the fragrance of orchids or the grandeur of pine trees. Such virtues will extend to future generations as the water continues to flow.

Installation view of Children of the Image, Group Show at Amanyangyun Shanghai

Another light-and-shadow event showcased in the same exhibition comes from another master born and passed away in the same years as Kim — the Italian minimalist abstract painter Turi Simeti (1929—2021). If Kim’s artistic journey, originating in the 1970s and spanning over four decades with his series of “water drops,” aimed to create a sculptural naked-eye 3D on a flat canvas, Simeti’s self-made oval-shaped wooden frames turned the paintings into actual reliefs. The displayed piece, 3 ovali blu (2020), stands as one of his last paintings, continuing his consistent artistic vocabulary spanning over six decades. A rhythmic, harmonious sense and a lively tempo complement the unique tranquility in Simeti’s artworks. “Each canvas uses only one color, with the sole variation being the quantity and position of ovals in the paintings.” Strictly adhering to this selfimposed rule, Simeti pursued the three-dimensionality of the wooden frames to bring forth infinite variations in light: “The threedimensional area of the painting created from the inside toward the outside and vice-versa offers shifts of light with infinite possibilities and variations. In this way, light completes the artwork and simultaneously transforms it, giving it harmony and color.”

Colour Washes

The secret of infinite possibilities and variations lies in the play of light and shadow and the enchantment of color blending. The diaphanous Colour Washes originated by Vivian Springford (1913—2003) from the Chromatic Pools based on her mastery of a complex mode. This mode relied on thinly applied oil or, more often, acrylicbased washes on linen or canvas, allowing the pigments to soak into the substrate and bleed out from the loci of applied paint. Her works embody a romantic belief in the interconnectedness of the individual with the vast cosmic energies. Unlike the torrent of action painting in American abstract expressionism, Springfield’s creativity endeavors to break free from the bodily dimension, opting for the sprawling traces of diffusion within the canvas, imitating the ever-expanding universe and capturing its amorphousness and boundlessness.

Installation view of Children of the Image, Group Show at Amanyangyun Shanghai

The exhibited piece,  Untitled (1984), employs bright yellow and grass green as primary colors, accented with a velvety coral pinkorange in the lower right corner. The intense and rich bright yellow pigment in the upper left corner contrasts with the extensive thin washes of color in the painting, creating a heterogeneous sense of space. Circular pools of colors, dispersing outward like growth rings, seem capable of drawing viewers into this heterogeneous spacetime. In the news release of her solo exhibition at Saint Peter’s Church in New York in 1979, she noted: “Painting is my attempt to identify with the universal whole. I would like to find my own small plot or pattern of energy in terms of color and movement. The expansive center of the universe and nature is my constant challenge in abstract terms.”

Jean-Baptiste Bernadet (1978) draws from Impressionist Pointillism, Abstract Expressionism, monochrome painting, gestural art, and color field painting. Like Springford, he infuses his artworks with an immersive atmosphere of colors reminiscent of clouds, mist, and shimmering water. Despite its title referencing the clear morning dewdrops, the exhibited piece, Untitled (Rosée) (2016), resembles more of a hazy memory projected onto a misty surface, with its dreamy and vividly purple-hued imagery.

Clear Reflections

Mirror foil, copper foil, aluminium, silicone, acrylic glass, resin, silicone, acrylic, cardboard... Rudolf Polanszky (1951) creatively combines savage industrial and painting materials, collaging them into an irresistible textured world: as ambient light shifts, the fractured and overlapping sharp angles, arcs, and wedges form indescribable layers that faintly reflect the viewer’s presence on the mirrored surface, as if creating ripples of light flowing on unquiet water. It offers another form of clear reflection in deep waters, prompting viewers to reflect and discover novelty in front of the realm of distortion and disorder.

Installation view of Children of the Image, Group Show at Amanyangyun Shanghai

The three pieces exhibited in the exhibition come from Polanszky’s longterm series Reconstruction, which began in the 1990s. Diverging from his earlier attempts in action painting starting from the early 1980s, this se-ries, symbolizing a shift in his style, stems from his reflection on the Viennese Actionist art movement in which he once acted as a radical and experimental painter. Randomness and improvisation once occupied the core of his creative process in the 1980s: in videos documenting his early practices, Polanszky bounced on a selfinvented spring-loaded stool, clumsily leaving marks on a papermounted wall; in a different scene, from specially designed pajama paint drips onto bedsheet during his sleep, creating “paintings” on linen. These experiments aimed to eliminate the artist’s authorship control over the canvas, reminiscent of Dadaism.

However, in the Reconstruction series, Polanszky’s pursuit of “freedom” takes a new path. Polanszky noted: “Reconstruction is just a name. Everything that comes over the senses in my brain is there, reconstructed again. It is that part of visualisation: you try to find something, you focus—but it is not so, com-pletely. So, I have come to the idea that everything that I’m doing is reconstruction. There’s no idea that fits the work better, there’s not the term ‘correct.’ ‘Correct’ is an adapted quality, where it means ‘how it should be.’ I don’t know what ‘should be’ anyway. That is what I also was looking for, what I called ‘freedom.’”

Installation view of Children of the Image, Group Show at Amanyangyun Shanghai

In the large painting Dipsas (2022) presented in the exhibition, Erik Lindman (1985) similarly aims to construct complex geological layers on a flat surface, collages canvas webbing, and tarlatan on linen. While distinct horizontal threads of various colors delineate geological layers vertically, the interwoven fabric fragments and pigments on the linen canvas’s pure blue surface evoke a landscape rich in texture and treasure. Viewing Lindman’s artwork brings to mind Robert Macfarlane’s exploration into the depths of the Earth’s crust and seabeds in UNDERLAND: A Deep Time Journey. Being a geological time concept, a chronology of the underworld, “Deep Time,” flows a vibrant radiance starkly different from the world above.

“There are moments where archaeology seems not so much an act of recovery, but more a description of solid material becoming liquid for a moment.” Through this artist’s statement, I imagine a wiggling dipsas wiping the swallowed snail’s mucous on branches, silently waiting for the hearty meal to dissolve within its belly. Time seems to melt along, flowing silently.

Installation with of Tursic & Mille’s Still - Life (sunset), 2020 in the Group Show ‘Children of the Image’ at Amanyangyun Shanghai

— Ling Gu, writer and curator