Xu Zhen by MadeIn Company: Prey

24 Mai - 25 Juillet 2014 Bourg-Tibourg - Paris

Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels is very pleased to present the exhibition Prey by Xu Zhen Produced by MadeIn Company, the third project in partnership with the Chinese collective following Sleeping Life Away in Paris in 2012 and in Brussels in 2013.

On this occasion, Xu Zhen is showing a set of six large works from the series Prey. These paintings have been created using photographs as their starting point. Taken by a team from MadeIn Company, the photos are of the interiors of homes belonging to disadvantaged families in the provinces of Sichuan and Guizhou in China. Each painting is set in a large gilded frame and identified by a sign giving the geographic coordinates of the place where the photograph was taken: both elements are considered as integral facets of the work.

In this series, Xu Zhen comments ironically and shrewdly on the aesthetic links that exist between art and poverty. Executed with great technical skill using oil paints, and traditional Flemish framing and chiaroscuro, these destitute rural interiors are imbued with dignity and nobility by the application of this classic treatment.
It is by placing aesthetics and ethical principles at odds that Xu Zhen subverts moral standards and undermines the viewer’s conscience, perturbing our criteria for the appreciation of beauty by presenting us with lavish destitution.

These figureless interiors feature filthy straw mattresses, dilapidated wickerwork baskets, rickety wooden beds and horsehair bedding with stained and patched linen on a floor made of beaten earth or dusty concrete. These sordid settings are only given a degree of warmth by traces of a human presence: a green bush bursting with leaf shoots, a poster of Mao on a cracked wall, a pair of elegant shoes, a violet net curtain with a golden fringe, reaping sickles and sticky kitchen utensils, half-empty white sacks of rice, a floral patterned quilt and a vivid blue jacket.

Xu Zhen and his production company MadeIn Company – founded in 2009 by this multifaceted artist – cut a remarkable figure in the international art market. By reproducing in a catalogue an image clearly created with Photoshop of a painting from the Prey series on the wall of an opulent home, we are faced by photographs in luxurious houses of paintings based on photographs of deprived dwellings. The mixing of genres unsettles our perception of the collective’s work and calls into question the contrivance of the meaning of the work, which has been disrupted by the binary though simple construction that sets poverty against wealth. We do not know whether the title Prey refers to Chinese peasants exploited by the rich or whether it is collectors and the art market that are the artist’s target.