“The obsolescence, the residue, the dereliction, I name them relic”
– Ni Youyu
Contemporary Fine Arts presents Relic, Ni Youyu’s second exhibition with the gallery.
Showcasing 39 works from the Pinball Series, Relic offers a unique view into Ni’s exploration of the form. Just one example of the diverse creations that comprise his practice, Ni collects, refits and hand-paints the pinball installations, employing cosmological and mythological motifs.
Ni’s works approximate a universal cognizance found in moving beyond paradigms of antiquity and modernity. Ni developed this principle in his studies at the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University, where he specialized in Chinese paintings. Educated in traditional Chinese ink-wash painting (a style involving ink applied to rice paper or silk, often in scroll form), he draws from the rich and deep traditions of Song (960-1279AD) and Yuan (1271-1368AD) Dynasty ink paintings, when the ancient artists pursued the unity between man and nature within the limited space of paintings. While the genre focuses on a relationship to antiquity, Ni’s works explore the temporal and spatial interplay on a cosmological scale. Ni maps intersections between Chinese and Western cosmologies and art histories with precision and awareness of life. The astronomical tropes in his Dust series, for instance, evoke the cosmology of Five Dynasties and Northern Song Dynasty (907 – 1127) landscape paintings, while a recurrent grid technique draws upon Renaissance Scandinavian landscape paintings.
For his Pinball Series, Ni mines flea markets, online auctions and garbage bins to gather his trove of materials. He incorporates bits and pieces into his works: chipped figurines, pieces of marble, mechanical components, broken rulers. These discarded fragments carry his philosophy, repurposed as vessels for metaphors that are similarly fragmented, not simple to decipher. In the white Pinball Installations, echoes of Park Seo-Bo resound, in other works, the impact of Joseph Cornell, to whom Ni pays direct homage, is evident. In tracing the fundamental cognizance that informs understanding of the dynamic between the ancient and contemporary, between China and the West, Ni moves beyond division of identity, nationality or race. The subjects of his practice, whether dust, the ruler, the waterfall or the pinball installation, all gesture towards a collective embodiment of life.
A catalogue accompanying Relic with images of the Pinball Series and an essay by art critic Kito Nedo will be published in November.
Ni Youyu (b. 1984 Jiangxi, China) lives and works in Shanghai. He graduated from the Fine Art College of Shanghai (2007). Recent institutional solo exhibitions include Concrete Waterfall, Kunstverein Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany (2017); Constant dripping wears away a stone, MOCA Taipei, Taipei, Chinese Taiwan (2015); Inches of Time, Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts, Nanjing, China (2014) and A Brief History, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2012).all images © the gallery and the artist(s)