Patently potent

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One of the factors of today's art scene is the constant search for young artists who will be future masters, while ignoring others.

As such, British art critic and curator Karen Smith, who has lived in Beijing and been involved in China's contemporary art scene since 1992, emphasizes the importance of following up on artists after they make a strong first impression.

Smith is the curator of a new show at Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai called A Potent Force, featuring Hu Xiaoyuan and Duan Jianyu.

Both artists are women, born in the 1970s and have been active on the scene both at home and abroad since the early 2000s.

"They are completely different in terms of their artistic ideas and styles," comments Larys Frogier, director of Rockbund Art Museum, adding the show explores the relationship between art and life.

Duan's paintings and installations are on the fourth and fifth floors of the exhibition hall. The largest work, Muses and Museum, is 8.8 meters wide, and reveals her attitude toward art: a museum in the midst of trees.

Duan also borrowed some painting methods from Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin to represent a scene in the film Last Year at Marienbad, by Alain Resnais.

Her intention is "to establish the structure of life and art by borrowing the fusion of the film scene with reality".

In the painting, naked women pose in front of trees, while chickens walk around - creating an absurd and humorous scene. For Duan, the hens are wandering poets, free thinkers, and doubters of beauty.

Literature, hometown memories and old detective stories are all part of the narrative in Duan's paintings and installations.

"I dislike the academic routine of traditional art training," she says. "So I put something dissonant and abrupt in my paintings. They are challenges to traditional aesthetic ideas, and jokes about them too," Duan says.

Hu presents her installation and video projects in the second and third floor exhibition halls.

For the series of works called Thing, she makes meticulous drawings on thin, translucent silk. The silk is put on top of wood, creating objects and their images, reality and illusion.

She also presents three giant screens, playing a video project named Axing Ice to Cross the Sea.

"It's an impossible mission to cross the ocean on a block of ice, however hard you try," Hu says of the work, explaining it is a paradox.

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