Han Lei, Luochuan, Shanxi province (from the series 1986-2000 Black and White), 1989
Han Lei, Four Chinese Boys (from the series Portraits), 2007
Greg Girad, (left) Sailor's Home (from the series Vancouver 1970s), 1973; (right) House on Huangpi Lu #1 (from the series Phantom Shanghai - Exteriors), 2005
Jiang Zhi, (left) Things Would Turn Illusive Once They Happened #3, 2007; (right) Things Would Turn Simpler Once They Happened #2, 2006
Robert Van de Hilst, (left) #37: Phoenix Bicycle (from the series Shanghai: 1990-1993), 1993; (right) Artist in his studio (from the series Chinese Interiors), 2004
2.21 - 4.15
m97 Gallery (Shanghai)
by Diana Freundl
Parallax refers to the apparent difference in position of an object when viewed from different vantage points. For m97 Gallery director, Steven Harris, it is the curatorial concept for a group exhibition that attempts to explore the transformation of an artist at different periods in his or her career.
Harris selected two works by 12 of the gallery's artists from different stages in their careers. By installing these works side by side, he affords viewers an opportunity to contrast and compare how the technical or conceptual approach of each artist has evolved over time.
"Some of the pairings reinforce that in certain respects little has changed," comments Harris, referencing Han Lei's two works as an example. "If you look beyond the style you see that the artist is still trying to show much the same thing."
The older image, taken in 1989 in Shanxi Province, is a documentary shot of locals watching a performance. The second image is representative of Han Lei's more recent work: a staged scene set up in his studio. In the 1980s, when the first image was created, the artist had just graduated from art school and had less access to high-end equipment and lighting, making use of the environment around him and thus working with more documentary-style photography. In the past two to three years, Han Lei has developed his signature style of setting up a shot and using props he collects. What is most interesting when comparing the two images made eight years apart is that by deconstructing, one discovers how similar the compositional elements really are: in both Chinese boys dressed in military clothing stand holding flowers and/or musical instruments, staring blankly at the viewer.
An artist's consistent gravitation towards one subject matter and reflecting a similar aesthetic and poetic in his work is probably best illustrated by Greg Girad. After 35 years, the subject matter in Girad's photography virtually has not changed at all: from his most famous Phantom Shanghai scenes of houses being torn down in Shanghai's oldest neighborhoods to the old homes in the historical Gastown area of Vancouver, Canada.
The progression of change is also prevalent, particularly in the works of Jiang Zhi, whose more recent photography series is contrasted with a video installation. The video shows his first experiments with light as a subject. Although now working in a different medium, Jiang Zhi continues the conceptual discussion of people "waiting for light" to shed meaning on the world.
Robert van der Hilst, known as the "Shanghai specialist" for his street photography in the 1990s, illustrates a great departure from his photojournalist period covering the changing cityscapes of Shanghai to his new work that focuses on the private interiors of people's homes and or workspaces throughout China.
Gallery group exhibitions, which try to give viewers a second opportunity to see the works they might have missed at an artist's solo show, can be dull. Parallax proves to be a creative way to show gallery artists and the process of change an artist undergoes in his or her career.