Ni Youyu: The Endless Second

9 September - 28 October 2017 Cloître Saint-Merri I & II - Paris
Galerie Nathalie Obadia is delighted to present Ni Youyu's first exhibition in France entitled The Endless Second. Born in 1984 in the province of Jiangxi, he is one of the most representative Chinese artists from the young generation looking to rediscover Chinese traditional aesthetic heritage.

Ni Youyu works with a varied range of media and supports. While freely combining traditional and modern, western and eastern artistic concepts, the artist proposes a unique criticism of the systems at work in the art world: «On one hand my work is a tribute; on the other, I also want to be unruly.» The topic of time and space perception also plays a central part in his work.

The exhibition entitled The Endless Second features a selection of recent pieces (2016-2017) of various media and techniques such as engraving on wood, acrylic on canvas, photography, chalk dust and stone.
With the Water Washed Paintings series, Ni Youyu has developed a technique based on a specific pictorial process. He first covers his canvases with golden acrylic paint before adding layers of black. He then sprays great quantities of water in order to wash away some of the layers and leave only the precise outlines of a drawing. Water therefore becomes like a second paintbrush. These contrasting paintings represent motifs that evoke natural elements like trees or forests, but also fluvial sediments and rivers. The Water Washed Paintings, as well as the engravings on wood also showcased in the exhibition, are often painted in baroque frames in reference to classical masterpieces. This watering-down process seems to suppress time: «To some extent, the texture achieved by this technique is alike the ancient paintings, on which hundreds of years of weathering left mottled and fragmented marks. (...)The process of repeatedly water-washing the paintings is a process of killing time.»

During years, Ni Youyu has collected stones from all over the world, which irregularities remind him of cascade images. The artist photographs them with zoom lens and blurs certain areas in order to create artificial landscapes. The Endless Second series is an answer to traditional Chinese aesthetic. The stone or waterfall pattern is the symbol of a spiritual quest. These unreal landscapes invite viewers to escape in allegorical territories reminiscent of the floating islands photographed by Thimothy O'Sullivan (1840-1882) at the Pyramid Lake.

Drawing inspiration from his rich cultural background as well as his personal experience, Ni Youyu came up with the Dust Paintings, which are like constellations hung on gallery walls. Fascinated by astronomy, like Thomas Ruff (1958) he references in his work entitled Dust (Thomas Ruff: 15h 24m-25°), the artist creates exact replicas of galaxy pictures. He proceeds with method by meticulously applying chalk powder on images he previously measured and grilled with the utmost precision. The artist then sprays glue several times in order to fixate each millimetre of dust on wood panels. Ni Youyu reinvents these landscapes from the angle of Marcel Duchamp's concept of Ready Made (1887-1968). Besides, he sheds light on this "cheap", fragile and ephemeral material by turning it into something precious in order to suggest the complexity and conflicts related to the art market.

Based on unique compositions with both far-eastern and western influences, Ni Youyu's work is also a complex association of historic and traditional elements with contemporary components. Conscious of his time, he points out very accurate issues of the art world, but also the relationships between Men and the History of art.