In 2018, Luo Mingjun focused on depicting a magnolia tree in her garden in Switzerland. Fascinated with the forms and movements of the tree, she explored it further more as her subject matter in various formats, and made it the theme of this exhibition. Luo Mingjun is known in Switzerland for her highly controlled and precise interpretations of photographs from her childhood and youth in China: family portraits, domestic objects and everyday situations. She regards the autobiographical as a stage on which to project her past and present selves, her tender depictions in oil, watercolour, charcoal or pen and ink a highly personal exploration of things she has seen and experienced. The title of this exhibition, I walk beside you, demonstrates, however, through both paintings and watercolours, her skill in simultaneously exploring her realistic and highly personal subject matter whilst reinventing it as an abstract proposition in paint.
In 2018 Luo Mingjun took as the subject matter for an oil painting the magnificent magnolia tree in her garden in Switzerland. Although her view of the tree immediately outside the studio window had accompanied her practice for the last four years, the artist had never considered painting it until now. It was only after she had completed the work that a friend informed Luo Mingjun that the magnolia was a species indigenous to Asia. Touched and amused by this serendipitous link to her own life between China and Europe, but fascinated too by the forms and movements of the tree, she decided to focus on it as the theme of this exhibition, exploring it via a number of paintings in various formats.
Luo Mingjun is known in Switzerland for her highly controlled and precise interpretations of photographs from her childhood and youth in China: family portraits, domestic objects and everyday situations. She regards the autobiographical as a stage on which to project her past and present selves, her tender depictions in oil, watercolour, charcoal or pen and ink a highly personal exploration of things she has seen and experienced. The title of this exhibition, I walk beside you, indicates, however, the artist’s choice to focus on the immediate present, the continuation of her life and artistic practice today. It also underlines the fact that the magnolia tree began its existence before Luo Mingjun was born and will probably outlive her.
The flowering magnolia is not the first tree to be depicted by the artist. Her initial inspiration was the glimpse of a tree from a train in 2018. Impressed by its apparent age and strength, she made it the subject of a painting, also presented in this exhibition. However, whereas this tree is shown almost in its entirety and from a distance, the views of the magnolia are always partial and close-up. Luo Mingjun’s familiarity with the spreading branches, majestic buds and opulent flowers - so near to her studio window that she could reach out and touch them – is transmitted in the large scale of the painted details. We are always reminded, however, that we are looking at a painting: although Luo Mingjun interprets the magnolia from both life and from photographs, there is little detail and she restricts her palette throughout the series to tones of grey. In addition the paintings change with the viewer’s movements, the clarity of the depiction from a distance dissolving into brushstrokes the closer one approaches the canvas.
One of the most striking features of the magnolia series is the relationship between the complex forms of the tree and the empty background. The observer inevitably reads the latter as sky, yet it is also significant that traditionally in Asian art only that which is important is depicted. Luo Mingjun focuses on the forms of the individual buds and flowers, indicating the branches more generally. The empty spaces that are inevitably created remain mysterious voids that often have the quality of light, specifically the fading light of evening.
Shown alongside the canvases are two small graphite drawings, their dense abstract surface contrasting with the paintings’ realism. At the beginning and end of each day working on the images of the magnolia, the artist added more pencil strokes to the drawings, their slow construction thus mirroring the production of the paintings.
Also included in the exhibition is a group of recent watercolours. In each of these a single jewel-like colour is applied in droplets to form an image such as a tree, a building with steps or drops of green water. The withholding of description through colour, as well as the fact that the pencil contours are not always filled in, requires the viewer to mentally complete the work. These works are mere impressions of experiences captured in photographs, as though hovering fleetingly on the surface of the paper. In this exhibition, I walk beside you, Luo Mingjun demonstrates through both paintings and watercolours her skill in simultaneously exploring her realistic and highly personal subject matter whilst reinventing it as a more abstract proposition in paint.
1963 Born in Hunan province 1983 Graduated from Fine Arts Studies, Hunan Normal University, China 1983-87 Assistant Lecturer, Fine Arts Faculty, Hunan Normal University, China She lives and works in Switzerland and China.
Selected Solo Exhibitions: 2019 I Walk Beside You: Luo Mingjun New Works, AYE Gallery, Beijing, China 2018 En scène, Gisèle Linder, Basel, Switzerland 2017 The Path of Time – Luo Minjun Solo Exhibition, AYE Gallery, Beijing, China 2016 Here and now, Musee d’art de Pully, Pully, Switzerland Open the door, Gisèle Linder, Basel, Switzerland 2015 A Paper Boat, Kunstkeller Bern, Bern, Switzerland 2014 The Third Space, Gisèle Linder, Basel, Switzerland Guan Xi, Aeroplastics contemporary, Brussels, Belgium 2013 Close to Somewhere, Foundation Louis Moret, Martigny, Switzerland 2012 Rice, Davel 14, Cully, Switzerland Perfume of the Dust, Gisèle Linder, Basel, Switzerland Dust, Pekin Fine Arts, Beijing, China 2011 Go and Back, LDX Contemporary Art Centre, Beijing, China Breeze, Gisèle Linder, Basel, Switzerland South of the Clouds, Atelier Raynald Métraux, Lausanne, Switzerland 2010 Here or There, Kunstkeller Bern, Bern, Switzerland 2009 Space-Time, Galerie Elisabeth Staffelbach, Zurich, Switzerland Deciphered, Foundation Louis Moret, Martigny, Switzerland 2008 The Red Dust, Centre PasquArt, Biel, Switzerland One Drop in the Ocean, Galerie Gisèle Linder, Basel, Switzerland 2007 1/2 Alien, Creek Art Centre, Shanghai; Beijing, China
Selected Group Exhibitions: 2019 Art China, Kunsthaus Interlaken, Interlaken, Switzerland 2018 Cantonale Berne Jura, Espace d’art contemporain, Musée jurassien des Arts, Jura, Switzerland 2017 Blank Cheque - AYE Gallery Beijing in Berlin, CFA, Berlin, Germany 2016 Fundamental - the 5th Mediations Biennale, Poznan, Poland My Art, Centre PasquArt, Biel, Switzerland 2015 Des seins à dessein, Foundation Francine Delacrétaz, Lausanne, Switzerland Liberating: the Past from Present - Contemporary Art in China, SZ Art Centre, Beijing, China; Gallery Astley Museum, Sweden; Diaghilev Modern Art Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia 2014 The 1st Xinjiang International Art Biennale, Urumqi, China Plateforme(s), Centre d’art Contemporain Yverdon-les-Bains, Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland China.ch, Kunsthalle Palazzo, Liestal, Switzerland, Accrochage [Vaud 2014], Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland Cantonale Berne Jura 2014/2015, Centre PasquArt, Beil / Kunsthaus Interlaken, Switzerland 2013 Ander fuhren Art Prints, Foundation Ander Fuhren, Biel, Switzerland One Meter Square : Situation, Linda Gallery, Beijing, China 2012 This is a Women’s World, Kunstmuserum Thun, Switzerland Undoing Shuimo, Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China I am the space where I am-Swiss Women’s Contemporary Art Exhibition, He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China Paris-Martigny, because the card is more important than the territory, Foundation Louis Moret, Martigny, Switzerland; Paris, France Swiss Photography Foundation Photography Day, Biel, Switzerland 2011 Accrochage [Vaud 2011], Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland Second Breaths, Regional School of Fine Arts, Besançon, France 2010 Busan Biennial: Now! Asian Artist, Busan, Korea Traffic Live: Sino-French Contemporary Art Exchange Exhibition, Shanghai, China Invisible City - Shanghai Metro Public Art Exhibition, Shanghai, China 2009 Trends in Hubei and Hunan --- Chinese Contemporary Art 1985-2009, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China The Faces of the Industry, Musée des beaux-arts Le Locle, Le Locle, Switzerland 2008 30 Years of Chinese Abstract Art, La Caixa Forum, Barcelona, Spain Liberation Feet, International Drawing Research Institute (IDRI), Australia 2007 Carte Blanche, Musée Jurassien des Arts, Moutier, Switzerland Self-taught Society-Exhibition in Deviation, Fei Contemporary Art Centre, China