The "Sea Level" art exhibition, which focuses on the cultured sea level city of Shanghai, for the first time features contemporary art, yet it's anything but dynamic.
"Reshaping Art," the theme of the 2006 Sea Level biennial exhibition, zooms in on contemporary art by younger artists, but it is very gentle kind of art, nothing too startling.
"This exhibition, nurtured by the special culture of Shanghai, constantly features by gentleness," said Zhu Guorong, art director of 2006 Sea Level, "Its visual impact is certainly not very dynamic." After two decades of biennials, this is the first time contemporary art has been the theme, and it's anything but exciting in the city that sees itself as a trendsetter.
For example, in Zhang Yong's painting, the world is simply a pair of feet with toenails painted scarlet. Its obtrusive rouge hue catches the eye, reminding visitors that this is a city filled with evasive desires.
Artist Wang Kai offers "another eye" because the gaudy and bizarre urban life almost "blinds" people. He seeks a conceptual truth under the mask of life.
This year's Sea Level is dominated by young artists. With the average age being 36, this is the youngest group of biennial exhibitors, said Zhu.
"One of its striking characteristics is the exploration of mixed media, which breaks the conventional division of art into ink, water colors, oil painting, print and sculpture," he said.
A variety of images are expressed. Those created by middle-aged artists tend to be characterized by poetic naturalness, such as the steel sculptures of Yang Dongbai. By contrast, the works of younger artists feature greater energy and agitation typical of the age of consumption.
For example, Zhang Yong's jellyfish expresses the restlessness of life. The head crying out in Tang Shu's painting presents loneliness and helpless anxiety. These young artists seem to call, "What we get is only some fragment, some magnified part of life."
Almost every young artist in the show has found his or her own signature work and reproduces it again and again. These young artists grew up in a life of affluence and never knew physical hunger or real trouble.
"They may lack an explosive power and be incapable of broad thinking," said Zhu, "but they are quick to respond to their surroundings."
(Shanghai Daily December 22, 2006)