“Cloister” – Xie Aige, Zhao Aihua Exhibition
102, Bldg 7, Moganshan Rd 50, Putuo District
In the Middle Ages, the cloister was the bloodline between cathedrals, monasteries, refectories, colleges, dormitories and other buildings. It was a wall and corridor that wrapped the arcade next to the monastery and a garden, forming a forbidden area for the monastery. It was a barrier that isolates the life of the monks, from the world. Even with the cloister, the canteen could be placed opposite to the church so that worshippers can be kept away from the noise and smell of the kitchen. In today’s exhibition at COSPACE gallery, the corridors around the rectangular exhibition hall are the veins connecting the forbidden area, including the all-encompassing environment of the corridor. The cloister is a secluded and enclosed environment, an independent world created by the artists. Their work seems to have no intention here, but as they breathe and flow in the space, they invite the viewer to draw in the space between them, to follow the shadows of the work, to breathe together, and to discover their direction. Their work does not adhere to a classic style, but purely show their observations and attitudes towards life, offering viewers a calm and comfortable experience. This calm state of mind comes from the rigorous self-discipline of the two artists. Waking up even before the rooster would crow, they follow the same custom for monks and nuns in the cloister, and start meditating. There are no boundaries between paintings and sculptures; they are corridors around the garden, like the equator; they follow their own trajectory. As Zhao Aihua once said, "I am lucky in my life. I look up to see the masters, and look down to see my own footprints. If I can’t go far, I would then just stare at a nearby plant, staring constantly, and be moved. Faith goes deep into life, sometimes the plants in the dark night will urge you to record their desires. The moonlight pours down on the branches of the tree, on the stem, on the leaves and on the branches. The night is summed up very vividly and without emotion, simple and affectionate. Without applying much brush and ink, I would dance on it, without noticing.” Zhao Aihua takes nature as her teacher, but her practice does not stop there. She lives her life like Fan Kuan from Song Dynasty, a hermit-like life. "But all appearances are illusory. If you see appearances that are not appearances, you will see the Tathagata." All things follow the heart, and the rustic lifestyle nourishes her works. In her work, it is not difficult to appreciate the freedom and agility of nature. On the other hand, the particularity of the sculpture production process gives Xie Aige more opportunities to graft her ideas onto her work. Xie Aige once said that she couldn't stand the imperfection of her work, so she would correct it again and again until she reaches her expectations. Otherwise she would be immersed in this tangled and repeated process. Unlike what the entirety resulted from “perfection” brings to the viewer from that of Gestalt, it amounts to perceptual erasure; objects so pristine that they can never be fully apprehended. Xie Aige's objects not only stay on the original surface of the sculpture, but also glimpse into her inner world, which can be minimal but at the same time gigantic. Behind the relaxed and laid-back characters as they appear, there are delicate stories and reflections on society. No objects are defined; their stories and dreams are always wandering but still remain in the center of the cloister.