Fri 15 Sep 2023 to Sun 15 Oct 2023
Lychee One presents ‘In Her Landscape,’ a duo solo exhibition that brings together the London based artist Qian Qian and Marlene Steyn from Cape Town. As the two artists emerge from distinctive cultural geographies, their painterly imagery shares methods of contemplative musings in which nuanced perspectives intertwine and meld into a vantage points of difference. This joint exhibition feels akin to a spatial rendition of the exquisite corpse, a surrealist painting game, where two distinctive minds converge upon a shared destiny, creating an integral formality with an impressive sense of equivocal artistic quality.
Derived from her earlier ventures into sci-fi narratives, Qian’s latest watercolour series “The Iron and Love in our Bodies” (2023– ) unfurls a microscopic universe with the interplay of light waves form integral components of consciousness. The canvas becomes a playground for whirls of colours that bear testament to meditative vision such as Shiva’s rhythmic dance, or the slow rotation of garden plants as they trace the path of light. These images endeavour to bring to life the interplay between the ‘Quantum Mind’ hypothesis and the meditative inner visions documented in Buddhist Sutras. While the theory suggests the intriguing role of quantum-mechanical phenomena like entanglement and superposition in the synaptic communication between neurons, she uncovers a reciprocal harmony within recollections of ancient wisdom. These sutras depict radiant hues seen by meditators’ inner eyes, marking the pinnacle of consciousness’s transformative passage. Collectively, the paintings contemplate colours and compositions as frequencies that resonate with the pulses reaching our visual senses.
As Qian enthralls with her inner visions, Steyn seemed to take up the mantle from the very horizon where Qian’s exploration culminates. In this latest series, Steyn unravels a Matryoshka of ecosystems within the confines of an evenly diminutive painterly capsule. Curiously, this series of Steyn’s works manages to evoke both ‘Neijing Tu’, The Daoist Inner Landscape, or the visions of Giuseppe Arcimboldo as distinctive cosmo-aesthetic lineages. This accidental convergence has given rise to the exhibition’s title. The pronunciation of ‘in her landscape’ bears a phonetic resemblance to ‘inner landscape,’ aiming to emphasize the inner bodily landscape as a counterpoint to the canonical narratives of Western modernity.
Crafting a protagonist that seemingly mirrors her own visage, Steyn’s serial paintings unravel an inner expanse where the gaze converges upon the skin’s outer layer, then ventures into the depths of intestines and the subconscious. Her enveloping arms and other acrobatic gestures would transform into a haven, nurturing fauna and creating a sauna-like oasis for growth (The Bedroomies, 2023), much like Qian’s plants that sway and twirl in their mandala dance (The Sun Standing Still, 2023). Steyn explores her figures in myriad ways, connecting them intricately with their surroundings and the negative spaces, often deliberately blurring the line between positive and negative spaces. Themes of the inner child, archetypal influences, and motherhood themes reverberate throughout her artistic exploration. The concept of entanglement emerges as a potent undercurrent interwoven with meditation – a philosophy where the relinquishing of ego embodies the notion of ‘being not apart, but a part of the whole.’ This intricate process takes on the role of meditation, with painting serving as the meditative conduit for discovery.
Text by Zian Chen