This Young Artist’s Works Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Alive

Late one April night, artist Liao Wen was in his studio in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, listing the many instruments he uses to create his astonishing art.

“These are my fleas,” she said in a video interview, panning the camera. “Chisels, chisels, chisels. Wood saws. So many tools, so many accessories, so many machines, so many sandpapers.”

It’s a hardware store that sells essentials, and she and her husband were in the process of packing up all the supplies to move across the border to Hong Kong (no easy task).

With these tools, Liao used wood to create sculptures reminiscent of sci-fi robots and skeletons (humans, animals, aliens) fused with obscure insects and plants. They are both fascinating and frightening, psychologically unstable, and, in the words of Wang Chuncheng, deputy curator of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) Art Museum, the 29-year-old “China’s most innovative It helps to make you one of the young female artists.Beijing and curator and critic Jia Chenghuang posted last year Published in Art in America magazine.

Liao took over the booth at Gallery Capsule Shanghai and had just completed a new body of work to be shown at Freeze New York this week.

When a trade show visitor peers through a peephole in the wall of a booth, they are confronted by a naked android, bent over on its toes and staring at them from between its legs. She’s exposing herself in the process – her crotch is urine-colored resin speckled with red – but she seems to have tight control over her mechanics, and a little It looks menacing.

“I think it’s quite provocative,” Liao said, explaining that the person was basically telling the voyeur, “Maybe he’s looking at my vagina.” , I don’t care (she put it in a more fancy way).

Her sculptures are not only striking, but also delve into the history of art, partly inspired by images of urinating women found in ancient Greek cups, 18th-century paintings by François Boucher, and more. I am using it. She titled her own work “Looking”.

“I’m thinking about how to use the body as a weapon or a gesture against or against something,” Liao said of his recent efforts. A closer look at her elegant structure reveals that she can actually act like a body as well. They have movable joints, which is the result of Mr. Liao’s extraordinary artistic training.

Born in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, Liao was about to complete his master’s degree in experimental arts at CAFA when he won a scholarship to study abroad. Recalling that time, she says, she thought, “Maybe she can do something she’s never done before.”

So, in 2017, she attended an intensive month-long puppetry workshop in Prague. She learned how to make marionettes, how to write scripts and perform. Her very first lesson was about flea safety, but she’s proud to say she’s never cut herself. (However, she has temporarily lost some feeling in her fingers due to the skin that came off in her childbirth.)

That was her attitude at CAFA, she says. I don’t like my teacher She was drawn to folk art and puppetry, which she “never exhibited in the white spaces of galleries.” They are open to everyone, to all audiences,” she said.

Until 2020, he thought of becoming a puppeteer and running a mobile puppet show, but decided not to because he realized that he was actually a very shy person. (This was a little hard to believe as she was happily talking and joking about her own practice.)

Focusing instead on sculpture, Liao “really pushed the boundaries between craft and folk art into a conceptual realm,” Beijing-based curator Mia Yu said in a telephone interview.

For a show organized by Yu as part of the 2021 OCAT Biennale in Shenzhen, Liao covered a large floor with dirt, planted greenery, and created a garden-like pedestal for animal-like creatures. Had made. Mr. Yu said that there is a “spirit of cherishing the material”.

In another adventurous series, Liao asked migrant workers in Shenzhen to make a self-portrait doll and take the doll to places that are important or important to them. The artist accompanied the workers, took pictures and wrote about their travels. It was an effort to preserve their stories and gain a deeper understanding of her city.

What binds these different projects together is a fascination with what the body can do, how it can grow, suffer, be nurtured, be reimagined, act as a symbol, and take action. . Another frieze sculpture depicts a human figure taking a giant step forward as his torso is pushed back by a huge, invisible weight. I am standing, but barely. Just looking at it can cause joint pain.

Liao hopes that her art will connect the viewer with her body and send her inside. To that end, four of his works resembling abstracted organs are hung on the walls of Freeze’s booth, each representing a different human urge: the need to suck, the need to urinate, the need to swallow, and the need to vomit. I am referring to the need to The latter is represented by a kind of smooth curved esophagus that is blocked by smooth objects resembling stones.

Some may find these subjects strange, Liao admitted. But what about expressing them? “We want to depict everyday bodily sensations because we are always chasing big things. and so on,” she said. “But I mean, every breath or feeling of thirst is invaluable to humans because it means we’re alive.”

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