Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on September 15 of Not Too Late- Recent Works by Feng Mengbo. In recent years it has become apparent that China’s leading video and new media artist is becoming increasingly interested in painting, an activity he essentially abandoned as soon as he acquired his first Macintosh and synthesizer in the early 1990s. Between 1993 when his work was first shown at the Venice Biennale and 2008 when the eight-screen interactive video game installation Long March- Restart was completed, the development of Feng’s work paralleled the extraordinary growth in reach and sophistication of the cyber world, but in 2007 the exhibition Wrong Code- Shanshui revealed an interest in classical Chinese painting and calligraphy that has grown progressively stronger.
Simultaneously with Yi Bite at Chambers Fine Art in 2009/2010 and Journey to the West, 2010, both of which explore different aspects of Chinese visual art, Feng was working on Not Too Late, a much more abstract video that was first shown in Decode: Digital Design Sensations at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 2010 and subsequently at the CAFA Museum, Beijing. Based on the video game Quake III Arena that had been the source of many earlier works, Feng created a new MOD that stripped the original most of its figurative references, revealing lines of force that resemble the forceful strokes of the great maters of calligraphy.
As shown at Chambers Fine Art, the video component of Not Too Late is accompanied by a new series of oil paintings and works on paper that further develop the concepts first glimpsed in 2010. The slowly moving visual drama of the video with its musical accompaniment resembles not only Chinese calligraphy but also the paintings of some of the pioneers of abstraction in the West. Selecting isolated moments from the video to be transferred to canvas and paper, Feng is now able to emphasize their distinctive characteristics by hand, exaggerating the drama when necessary or toning it down if required to. He has managed to tame Quake III Arena until it resembles something else entirely, and then to a degree personalize its visual offshoots until they enter the company of illustrious predecessors too numerous to mention.
A restless experimenter, Feng is currently investigating ways in which his fascination with the cyber world and the video games that have inspired so much of his art might be broadened to embrace more traditional methods for producing unique works of art. Not Too Late is a fascinating meditation on the relationship between the artist and the machine, between mechanically produced forms and those generated by the mind and hand of the artist, between past and present.