“MA”, solo exhibition by Ma Jianfeng
Ying Space (A3 Space Red Area Caochangdi Art District Chaoyang district, Beijing), Jul 9–Sept 4, 2016
“MA” consisted of two exhibition areas. To the right of the entrance to the gallery, old recycled cardboard boxes were stacked on which Ma had daubed images with contrasting colors and broad, rough strokes. Between the images were fragmented narratives and montage effects, creating flat planes while all the time making one sense the oppression of the flat planes against the textured space. The dense layout and chaotic shapes were used deliberately, set against the tranquility and emptiness of the white gallery space. Inside the gallery, in a smaller space, red tape dripped down in all directions from the tops of the cardboard boxes, invoking ineffable associations.
In the corridor to the left of the entrance lay some wooden shipment crates, blocking the already-narrow corridor. Inside, cardboard boxes, wood and wooden boxes were scattered pell-mell—an ecstasy of recycling depots, a collective tribal ritual, a street protest with a collective petition…. These scenes were set up but then also effaced by detailed symbols—Master Kung, Lv Luo, “pretention”, “alright” (in Sichuan dialect) —symbols that fluttered off into visibility, ambiguousness, and absurdity. The dual interference from the paintings and the information suggested both social production and texts that hint at actual experience, dragging the audience out of the gallery space into real life. Yet Ma Jianfeng’s position is anti-experiential; the perceptual senses represented by the paintings perforce slipped towards the reality represented by the symbols and the materials. The appearance of ready-mades here was not oriented towards knowledge; they merely existed. In order to render non-narrative and non-symbolic a cow, a horse and a dog, Ma reduced them according to their silhouettes, decontextualized them from their original scenes and picture planes, and placed them in a brand new space, restored to a state of original, untamed wildness.
Naturally, we dwell in experience, but for Ma Jianfeng, the reason “the painterly” is insistently discussed is unfounded, because this very question is produced by old experiences. He contends that painting’s subjectivity is founded on the perception and manipulation of image, color, and forms, and therefore he still uses the language of neo-expressionism, staging a conservative rebellion against painting.
Ma Jianfeng intended here to create a “painterly space”, wherein the ready-mades do not serve any discourse and the images are not objects of silence. The point was not to present any single artwork, but their relationships as formulated across the whole space. From plane to space, the context was displaced from the virtual realm to the real of the outside world. For the artist, this is a spatial representation of the multiple layers of painting. The concept of space can be understood not just as a transition in representational form from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional. Rather, the conceptual forms of a four-dimensional entity have equally changed, boundaries have disappeared, and participation from the exterior has been included. The subject-object relation thus becomes an interactive whole, with creation becoming an open-ended action. With the accompanying openness of media, painting has become a copula capable of interacting with any material.