In late 1981, when I was an art-loving middle school student, I received the year’s last issue of Fine Art Magazine, of which I was a subscriber, and was immediately drawn in by the oil painting printed on the cover, The Spring Wind has Awakened. The mournful air of the painting remained with me for a long time. I opened up the magazine and learned that the artist was named He Duoling, and as if under a spell, I combed through the rest of the issue to see if it contained any other works by him. In those years, Fine Art was the only professional magazine in the entire Chinese art scene, and it was a great honor to be featured on the cover, so there were no other works of his to be found in that issue. The next time I saw one of He Duoling’s paintings in a publication was over a year later, when he published the Snow Goose series in Serial Pictures Magazine. To this day, I clearly remember the lonely silhouette of the painter Philip Rhayader, living alone in the lighthouse, and the sad gaze of the young woman Fritha. Many years later, when I finally visited the English coast myself, I found my thoughts being drawn back to the scenes in He Duoling’s paintings, and felt a sense of familiarity. Over nearly thirty years of development in Chinese art since, the works of He Duoling have been a constant presence in our artistic life, from Youth, Bluebird (1984), Young Zhai (1987) and Crows Are Beautiful (1988) in the 1980s, to the Labyrinth Tower and Courtyard Project series of the 1990s, and on to the more recent Flying Infant, Rabbit, Wild Flowers and Wild Garden series. Through all the shifting currents and tides, when I look back over these past decades of Chinese art, these works still stand as a quiet testament to the times.
In recent years, He Duoling has been obsessed with the art of architecture. Another artist in this exhibition, Shui Yanfei, shares He Duoling’s love for the architecture of Luis Barragán, and has joined Mr. He in an exploration of the presentation and fusion of architecture, space, perspective and painting across different dimensions. Through the painter’s understanding of architectural space, and the architect’s deep pondering of the painter’s works, they have together created the exhibition Floating Pavilions that appears now at Contemporary Gallery Kunming. Shui Yanfei is one of the most idealistic architects I have seen among the post-80s generation, yet he is also wise and rational. Whether in his work or his reading, he is a meticulous planner. In his architectural plans, he has always carefully considered comparative meaning between Eastern and Western culture, and has always embraced the contradictions and complexities of reality. Drawing from his understanding of He Duoling’s works, he incorporated the museum space and various materials to create a design which catalyzes the resonance between painting and architecture. It then expands into broader cultural meaning about the fusion between art and nature.
For this exhibition, He Duoling and Contemporary Gallery Kunming are honored to invite Shi Jindian to take part in this exhibition as a special guest artist. His installation artwork effectively forms a bridge of communication between artworks and architectural space. Special guest critic Zhai Yongming is a poet for whom we have immense respect. Her essay Roving View in the Floating Pavilions provides a very fitting interpretation of He Duoling’s creative thinking for this exhibition: “The floating pavilion is suspended in an indeterminate state, inviting the viewer to step up and tread upon the canvas. Within, the viewer will experience a never-ending resonance.” This is precisely the experience we wish to bring to every viewer who visits this exhibition.
We at Contemporary Gallery Kunming are deeply honored to hold this exhibition today. I would like to thank curator Zhao Huan, the team at the He Duoling Museum, the team at NaturalBuild Architecture Studio, and the team at Contemporary Gallery Kunming. It is through their diligence and close collaboration that we are able to present this exhibition at Contemporary Gallery Kunming in Park 1903 today.
Director, Contemporary Gallery Kunming