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Portraying the mysteries of human emotion
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With gloom and doom in the air due to the approach of winter and the current global economic downturn, an ongoing exhibition in town just matches that atmosphere.

"The Other Side," at Stir Gallery, is a collaboration of two artists, Christiana Haase, from Germany, and Hu Xingyi, from China. Their works deal with the complexity of human emotions by employing mysterious human figures and faces that resemble both ghostly images and living human beings.

Haase, born in Berlin in 1974, studied architecture, urban planning and visual arts in Bauhaus-University, Weimar. Her 140-centimeter-high ceramic sculptures "Geister" ("Ghosts") were recently created for a Rococo palace called Schaezlerpalais Augsburg in southern Germany.

The palace was built around 1770 at a time when porcelain manufacturing in Europe was in full swing and dancing ballerinas were one of the favorite subjects.

The sculptures have smooth column-shaped bodies with swirling skirts, while the whole work is supported by three feet standing on their toes in ballet shoes.

In this "Ghosts" series, the faceless dancers resemble the Whirling Dervishes from the Islamic sect who dance themselves into trance, as well as the "undead" returning to haunt the living.

Haase's representations of these supernatural beings evoke beauty and mystery at the same time. With no faces showing, they hide themselves under blankets or skirts, not allowing the audience to know their true nature and identity.

The German word for ghost, "Geist," is also used in the sense of mind and spirit.

Currently Haase is living and working in China. Until next June, she will be producing new ceramic sculptures in Jingdezhen, in northeastern China, a world-famous, ceramic-making town with a long history and many interesting techniques for the artist to learn.

Haase also plans to spend time in southern Fujian Province.

While Haase's works for the exhibition are new, paintings by Chinese artist Hu, titled "Unidentified," are old works, created between late 2005 to March 2007.

In them he portrays barely recognizable human faces which seem to become ghost-like.

The artist drew his inspiration from television news reports of the Iraqi war. He wanted to express his opinion and criticism of the war in a vague and abstract painting genre.

The paintings are of faces of those seeming to speak to viewers from behind a veil, whether they be dead or alive. They are faces of people among us, soullessly dwelling in crowded cities, countless, unnoticeable and desolate. Silently they speak of loss.

Hu painted the last images of a person on a ferry on his way to meet Hades, and the place on the other side of the river that separates the world of the living from the dead.

Date: through January 24 (closed on Mondays), 11am-8pm

(Shanghai Daily December 19, 2008)

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