When asked to translate the exhibition notes for 林若熹 Lin Ruoxi’s 行愿 exhibition, I wasn’t expecting highrise-sized banners and three full galleries covering twelve years of his work, or I might have been way too freaked out. But that’s what it was, filling the entire gallery at 广州美术学院 Guangzhou Academy of fine Arts.
Xiaojia, who’s at the Academy doing her masters and is a friend of Lin Laoshi took us along to the academy gallery to see his work. The exhibition, (reviewed in Chinese) is a solo retrospective and covers twelve years of his paintings across three main styles, 工笔 gongbi, 写意 xieyi, and 没骨 mogu, each devoted to an individual gallery, and the sheer volume of work, achieved, Xiaojia said, through determined and single-minded bachelorhood is breathtaking in itself.
Mostly art that gives me goosebumps and makes me certain art can effect profound, seismic transformations in it’s audience has been lately of the grotesque and sordid type, a reflection more on myself than anything else. It’s not often I see more traditional contemporary art that I don’t think is just wallowing in the form, and is simple, mindless repetition.
Also mostly, the contemporary Chinese art that is making such a huge noise in the auction houses is of a kind in which the ‘contemporary’ aspect of the triumvirate is representative within the sphere of western contemporary art, and as such Chinese contemporary art can be seen as a subset of 20th century western art in the same way that American Abstract Expressionism is. Again, this is more a reflection I think on the audience and the desires being projected onto art coming out of China right now, in the same way that director Wong Kar-wai represents one strand of Hong Kong, Asian-European film, and it would be asinine to imagine he encompassed the whole of Hong Kong.
All this is to say that in Lin Ruoxi’s art there is a contemporary Chinese art that is thoroughly grounded in the history, technique, culture, and philosophy of China and Chinese art, and is as contemporary in its own way as Xiao Yu’s Ruan. This is a formidable exhibition from an artist of enormous talent and creativity, and when he gets it right which is often enough to make me want to give up art altogether, it’s all goosebumps, sweaty palms, and racing hearts.