Contemporary by Angela Li presents “Spectacle”, Chinese artist Lv Shanchuan’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong. The exhibition showcases seven new oil paintings from his latest Agora series. Lv graduated from the department of Oil Painting at Central Academy of Fine Art in 1997, and currently lives and works in Beijing. Following his studies in Germany in 2005, he started using images from the news to look into the connections between different social incidents and investigate the political and social ideologies that shape different relationships within today’s societies. Layer by layer, the artist reinterprets news of the past and present with thick paint on the canvases. When viewed up close, the paintings give a sense of chaos. Yet when the viewer steps back and looks at them from afar, there is remarkable reasoning and order behind all this apparent disorder, and this reasoning and order are the core drivers of the paintings.
The word “spectacle” originates from the book Society of the Spectacle by French philosopher Guy Debord (1931-1994). In the book, the “spectacles” are not actual views of societies; rather, they are the reinterpreted, or even at times manipulated visual representations of such. A “spectacle”, according to Debord, is the obstruction of reality, with speculative performances which cause the majority to be controlled by some minorities. This “society of spectacle” is heavily reliant on visuals and images, and the modern society in which human interaction is replaced by the spread of such images, concealing the reality underneath.
Renowned Chinese art critic He Guiyan commented that Lv neither directly copies images from the news nor recreates them in a simple manner. On the contrary, he decodes and reorganises them, and in the process he shows his subjective views and, more importantly, isolates these visual images and recreates them into new social landscapes. In He’s views, “Lv in fact transformed the contents of the news images into certain kinds of spectacles, and scenes which deliver certain meanings in sociology terms.”
“Agora” (the Greek word for “Square”), an important theme in this exhibition, doubles as the title of Lv’s most distinctive works of “spectacles”. There is an undertone of grief in this series, a continuation in the artist’s previous explorations in the relationships within public spaces and social incidents. The thick paint solidifying on the canvases, with each work weighing up to a hundred pounds, unfold dramatically his interpretations of the spectacular views of societies right in front of our eyes.