Wu Jian'an: Vision, Illusion and Acceptation, 2019-2021

26 September - 26 October 2021

PIFO Gallery is pleased to present Wu Jian’an’s solo exhibition Vision, Illusion and Acceptation, 2019-2021.It is the 1st solo exhibition of Wu Jian’an at PIFO Gallery, curated by Bao Dong. The upcoming exhibition will feature the artist’s two series: 500 Brushstrokes which is a series of “harmonious-looking” abstract paintings and the Infinite Paintings series which creates a heightened tension between visual sensory and optical nerve. Wu’s installations will also be included at the exhibition. 




Wu Jian’an’s work visually creates a heightened tension between physiology and culture, science and mythology. In his Infinite Paintings series, such a tension projects itself onto the visual sensory dimension represented by stimulating colors, odd shapes, elevated density and rhythm, catching the audiences’ eyes with its infinite details and holding their attention for a while. In terms of optical nerve, the paintings bear a resemblance to scientific images, such as color blindness test charts or Google’s DeepMind image generation. From the perspective of traditional aesthetics, the separated details that go beyond the whole structure appear to be fragmented, inorganic, inconsistent, non-structural, and as if in a state of existence having no end. All of his, perhaps, explains the reason for the naming of Infinite Paintings.


At the same time, the tension projects itself onto myths and psychological archetypes where monsters, heroes, killings, and fights take shape. Once these images coming into view, the audiences seek to sustain a balance between the nuances and the integrated whole, moving constantly between the visual nervous system and the visual thinking strategies and thus allowing their senses and sensibilities to challenge and confront each other. In this sense, Wu Jian’an’s work has opened up a place for debate, which enables the audiences to perceive the infinity of “eyes” and “hearts” in the process of constantly switching between vision and illusion. 


If Wu Jian’an served as the initiator who sparked off the debate in his Infinite Painting series, he performed the role of a defender of the other party in the 500 Brushstrokes series. By cutting out and assembling the brushstrokes made by different individuals into many “harmonious-looking” abstract paintings, the artist has somewhat shaken off a part of the conceptual foundations of impressionism. That being said, the premises of the so-called subject matter, mentality, motivation that are defined by modernity have been undone. This is approximately equivalent to the amount of influence in the way machines and artificial intelligence have had an impact on humanity, just like “the removal of the ladder after your ascent”; however, throughout the process, the artist’s artistic taste remains.


Wu Jian’an is such an artist whose aesthetics is generated from methods. With this, aesthetics functions as a result other than a goal; in other words, what is behind Wu’s visual works is argumentation. Furthermore, vision only serves as the deduction and induction that make an argument, the process of which is far from an easy one; sometimes it shows no traces of effort, just like “an antelope hangs its horn during sleep”, or it turns out to be on the horns of a dilemma, just like “a ram butts a fence”. At the same time, it could be a process of automatic generation or a miraculous recovery from a desperate situation. Simultaneously, such a way of working brought about the Incarnation series and evolved into the Infinite Paintings series.


Wu Jian’an’s most recent artistic creations can be understood as theoretical writing on the theme of visual research, in which vision is applied to discuss the issues of vision and visuals. Such a methodology appears to suggest an awareness of meta-image and meta-art. Discussions like this, however, are nowhere near obscure and tedious; these discussions can be fascinatingly lively. Akin to the Buddhist concept of images in disguised forms (vikurvaa-ddhi), which has double layers of meaning: one is the “change of sutra”, which uses images to decipher passages of the Buddhism scriptures; and the other is the “the power to work wonders”, which interprets the scriptures through exceptionally brilliant means. The fact that the two dimensions strengthen one another both internally and externally is where the theme of the present exhibition came from. At this point, we may view Wu Jian’an’s paintings as a scene of perception based on all the aspects that may constitute many visual elements of art — including physiology, technology, culture, history, and even politics— to be able to directly observe the impermanence of all notions and forms. 


—— Vision, Illusion, Acceptation by Bao Dong



Wu Jian’an was born in Beijing in 1980. He currently lives and works in Beijing as a professor, Vice President and M.A. student Supervisor at the School of Experimental Art, Central Academy of Fine Arts, he is also a researcher at the Chinese Arts and Crafts Institute, and a Member of Academic Committee of Prince Gung’s Palace Museum, under the China Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Vice Director of Collaborative Innovation Committee of Traditional Technology of China National Arts & Crafts Society, and sits on the academic board of Beijing Zoo.


In 2017, Wu Jian’an represented China in the 57th Venice Biennale. In recent years, Wu’s art works have attended Glasstress: Window to the Future (The State Hermitage Museum, Russia, 2021), KAIWU: Art et design en Chine (Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse, France, 2021), The Endless Life—the Narrative of the Yellow River (The Museum of Contemporary Art Yinchuan, Ningxia, China, 2020), Art and Archaeology (Naples National Archaeological Museum, Italy, 2019), The 7th Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2018 (Echigo-Tsumari, Japan, 2018), Serpenti Form (Art Science Museum, Singapore, Singapore; Mori Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2017),Lunar New Year: The Year of the Monkey (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA, 2016), The Carolyn Hsu and René Balcer Collection: Exploring Three Decades of Contemporary Chinese Art (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA, 2015), Cosmos (Shanghai 21st Century Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China, 2014), ALLES UNTER DEM HIMMEL GEHORT ALLEN, Chinese Public Art in Kassel (Brüder Grimm-Museum Kassel, Germany, 2012), Mind in Landscape (The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC, USA, 2011), Live and Let Live: Creators of Tomorrow—The 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan, 2009), etc. He had held several solo exhibitions in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York City.


Wu’s art works are in the permeant collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Berkley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Cornell University Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Guardian Art Center, Epoch Art Museum, Asia Art Archives, Modern Art Media, HSBC Jade Center in Beijing, Fidelity Investments Art Collection, White Rabbit Foundation, Chenyidan Charity Foundation, Bridging Hope Charity Foundation, etc.


Credited for the far-reaching impact of his artistic practice, Wu received The Asian Cultural Council 2021 Grants, which made him the only visual artist in China to receive this award that year. In recent years, he has also received 2020 Robb Report Best of the Best Awards for Artist and the 2018 Perspective 40 Under 40 Awards for Artist, and several other art awards bestowed by influential medias and institutes.


Bao Dong, born in 1979, he is an art critic, curator and co-founder of the art fair "Beijing Contemporary Art Expo". Graduated from the Art History Department of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2006, Since entering the Chinese contemporary art world in 2005, his critical articles have been widely published in domestic and foreign art journals, critical collections and artist monographs. He has curated exhibitions for many domestic and international art institutions, including UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Chulalongkorn University Art Center, Guangdong Times Art Museum, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, etc. In 2014, he was awarded an ACC Arts Grant; In the same year, he was nominated for the ICI Independent Vision Curatorial Award. In 2016, he won the Yishu Award for Chinese Contemporary Art Criticism and Curation.