Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on November 3 of Shi Chong: Hidden Figures. Shi Chong was born in Hubei, China in 1963. He graduated from the Oil Painting Department of Hubei Academy of Fine Arts in 1987 and stayed on to teach. He has taught at the Art Institute of Tsinghua University since 2001.
In the early 1990s, Shi was already well-known for his unique method of painting. He synthesized multiple art forms and combined a conceptual approach as well as performance with his exquisite painting technique, which offered a juncture of classical painting and contemporary art. As a continuous observer of Shi’s painting practice, Wu Hung has interacted with Shi Chong since 1997 and included the latter in several important exhibitions he organized. Wu has kindly agreed to contribute an essay to the current exhibition. He traces the development of his own interest in Shi’s idiosyncratic style through several important group exhibitions and offers insightful comments on his current work.
The exhibition concentrates on fifteen works produced in 2015-2018, including ten oil paintings, two watercolors and three prints. Shi has continuously developed his language of painting over many years: his recent works, whether groups of paintings such as Disharmonious Album, single paintings such as A.D. 2019, muted paintings such as Whisper II or effervescent paintings such as Expression IV, are marked by a greater freedom of style, including stippling, stroking and rubbing of the pigments. It took the artist five months to finish Disharmonious Album, in which a variety of different poses, materials and bodies are placed together side by side giving viewers a sense of wholeness. Another exhibited work Hidden Figure is in striking contrast with his earlier painting Portrait on an Undetermined Date. In the latter, a sheet of colorless acrylic was pressed on to the nude, forming an extruding plane at the contact surface which conveys to viewers the throbbing body beneath it. In contrast in Hidden Figure, the lines drawn by Shi’s fingers in the mist on a sheet of glass look as if they are suspended in space, making the picture more abstract and intriguing. Abstract elements and realistic forms are intertwined in the fifteen works included in the exhibition, unleashing viewers’ imaginative response to the dynamic images partially hidden within the frames. Bodies in different states and many different kinds of materials drifting in space are all under the control of the artist, leaving viewers free to use their imagination to see and interpret.
The gallery cooperated with Shi Chong for the first time in 2004 when Wu Hung included him in a group exhibition he curated at Chambers Fine Art in New York, Intersection: Contemporary Oil Painting & Photography, which explored the relationship between the traditional medium of oil painting and photography. As a participating artist, Shi attracted extensive attention in terms of his exquisite techniques and personal style. Years later, he has gone further and further in the path of “painterliness” and his style continues to evolve.