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Into Infinity and Beyond with Artist Wu Jian’an

Dec 24, 2018

TLmag catches up with Chinese artist Wu Jian’an to discuss his solo exhibition ‘Of the Infinite Mind’ at Guardian Art Center

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Images Courtesy of the artist and Chambers Fine Art

Infinity is ungraspable. It has no shape, no defined time period, no boundaries. Given this, how can we explore concepts of shapeless, infinite existence? Artist Wu Jian’an explores this and more in his solo exhibition Of the Infinite Mind.

The exhibition marks the first major exhibition co-organized by the Central Academy of Fine Arts and Guardian Art Center. It is also the first solo exhibition of a contemporary artist at Guardian Art Center which recently opened as a fresh cultural landmark in Beijing. Of the Infinite Mind was curated by Zheng Yan who uses the variety of scale and scope of the artists work to create a visual journey.

Working across a range of mediums and techniques including watercolor, paper-cutting, collage, animal hides, installation, and painting, the artist creates an experience of sensory and intellectual richness and dualism in his works. Art historian, critic, curator and professor at the University of Chicago, Wu Hung describes Wu Jian’an’s approach as binary but also complex: “Individual and unity, ancient and modern, tradition and future, figuration and abstraction, two and three dimensions, words and images……Wu Jian’an’s imagination naturally merges, rather than fighting against or criticizing these concepts. In other words, he can link opposite concepts.”

To dive into infinity and the vast array of works in Of the Infinite Mind, TLmag caught up with artist Wu Jian’an:

TLmag: There are over 100 works of yours in this exhibition from seven series. That seems like a huge output! Do you have a very fast-paced work process?
Wu Jian’an: The process is not fast. There is a large-scale installation in the exhibition called Maze of Plain Masks, consisting of hundreds of plain-colored masks made from buffalo hides. However, the exhibition counts each mask as one individual work, hence the large count of works in the exhibition.

Your work seems to deal with very heavy topics such as SARs and violence and brutality, why do feel compelled to explores these themes through your work? 
I probably didn’t realize the heaviness of the topics. I think what really makes us feel heavy is the unpredictable and uncontrollable in the future world. In contrast, those already known “serious topics” which we are familiar with, are just safe havens which humans use to express their deep feelings and emotions.

What do you think artists can add to the discourse around these topics?Things added, perhaps, are human’s memory of their unique history.

You working in many mediums such as painting, sculpture and using animal pelts, how do you choose which medium you want to work with?
Most of the time, it is not us who chooses a material but, instead, the material chooses us. They would all of a sudden appear in front of me, and inspire me with unique feelings. It becomes a destiny which motivates you to immerse yourself in working with this material with great passion.

What do you hope visitors will experience/take away from ‘Of the Infinite Mind’?
I hope the viewers can feel a certain pressure from the future, as well as the intense transformation of the relationship between humans and animals. This transformation will bring us into a chaotic but very exciting future.

‘Of the Infinite Mind’ will be on display until January 6.
Earlier this year, Chambers Fine Arts published a large-scale monograph of Wu Jian’an’s work

Wu Jian’an
Exhibition View, Of the Infinite Mind, Wu Jian'an
Wu Jian’an
Wu Jian’an
Wu Jian’an
Wu Jian’an 邬建安 (b. 1980) Mask #8 面具 #8, 2018 Buffalo hide, baking varnish, acrylic 水牛皮,烤漆,丙烯 280 x 260 x 10 cm (110 1/4 x 102 3/4 x4 in) WJA-SCP-18008
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