Shen Ye:Skirting Line
by Shi Hantao

Shen Ye created an empty and dull, dazzling yet hollow space in OFOTO Gallery, with a plain and absurd atmosphere. Compared to most artistic creations that express themselves through individual works, Shen seems to prefer using space itself as a framework to create a narrative. For him, an installation is not an isolated object, it is an organic part of the space. Meanwhile the space is more like a picture frame. He does not want to put several independent small pictures in this frame, but rather to draw a large picture and a complete story inside, by which the space inside this frame becomes a symbolic narrative, pointing towards the larger world outside.

The external world that Shen points to is not empty, and his works are always personal and focused on the present. He often connects local experiences with everyday objects and responds to and warns daily reality with exaggerated and impactful ways. He once let a sturdy bamboo outside the window abruptly grow into the exhibition hall, revealing the spiritual poverty of contemporary society in contrast to the enormous vitality of nature. He also used performance to make wine jars collide and shatter in the air, with huge sounds and a turbid aroma like our noisy and drunken reality. He once laid a large conch horizontally in the center of the exhibition hall, but its passage is filled with incense ash making it soundless.

As can be seen from the above works, there is often tension and paradox hidden in Shen Ye's works and the setting of space. The golden space and green wire skirting line this time are indeed metaphors for our own situation. The skirting line is always at the bottom of a space, it is a cheap decoration that can be replaced at any time; It can be used to cover up wall cracks and also to prevent people from getting dirty on the wall. But the skirting line is breaking. Through the cracks or the wire mesh, we could find some intermittent images of streets, people, objects, countless moments overlap and cover each other. They are dense and crowded, a world curled up in a corner that is suffocating, but only like the footnote of the grand and magnificent wall above. The most paradoxical may be the copper locks that will be hung on the wire during the exhibition. People like to place their beautiful wishes for life on the locks, but what they do is a seizure of our lives. It is difficult to tell whether this reflects some kind of external authoritarian power or reveals the flaws of human nature. However, the leg that kicked open the skirting line, crumbled into the fragments, just as the truth at the bottom of the walls. This is an exhibition that requires the visitors to look up and down, while we are appreciating the delicate but hollow golden walls, we also need to bend over to survey the countless concrete but blurry daily lives.

Although Shen Ye's creative techniques and spatial construction are both symbolistic and surrealist, the core of his works carries a direct and distinct spirit of critical realism. At the same time, his works are also lyrical. This lyricism does not refer to the artificial muttering, but rather to the romantic atmosphere brought about by its sincere attitude and genuine expression. Borrowing from Wang Dewei's Lyrical Tradition and Chinese Modernity, Shen Ye's lyricism and romance not only reflect his concern for reality and longing for ideals, but also his willingness to immerse himself in the reality; At the same time, it also carries Shen Congwen's "abstract lyricism", which emphasizes that in the face of historical violence, even if an individual is in the midst of the storm of the times, there is still the possibility of their own actions. The outside world is so chaotic, but with the materials of life that can be easily reached around us, we can still create artistic works, and establish a small, organized way of settling down in life - and thus extend to our own country and society. This is like how he often appears with his iconic bald head in his works; however, he always turns his back, expressing a certain avoidance or refusal attitude, just for maintaining his own position.

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