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Indepth Arts News:

"Broken Memories: A solo-exhibition by Xue Jiye"
2001-03-07 until 2001-03-28
Art Scene China
Hong Kong, , CN China

Xue Jiye's distinctive trademark style, which blends traditional figurative painting and urban landscape painting with a touch of the surreal, is a purely personal vision of the artist. At first glance, some of his works, such as The Wooden Horse, Old House and Woman Sitting on Motorcycle could easily be mistaken for simple photo-realism – a highly popular and profitable genre of painting in China and Hong Kong of recent years – for the undeniably highly technical and skilled abilities of the artist. What separates and lifts the works above standard ultra-realistic painting, however, is the artist's singular imagination that imbues and arouses deep emotional responses to his images, beyond the aesthetic aspect.

The title of the exhibition, Broken Memories, refers to the past, but more importantly it is about our formulation of the past in our memories. It is about the way the human mind constructs, deconstructs and reconstructs events over time. The past by its nature is irrecoverable and, once lost, only exists as traces in archival form that is forever subject to changes. Xue Jiye's works are potent visual representations of the act of nostalgia and reminiscence; they reverberate with feelings of loss and refer to our relentless pursuit of the irrecoverable past.

The artist explains his fascination with the past and the source of his inspiration, I miss the past... In the past, people used different ways to think and to communicate. Modern life has lowered our levels of perception, and even our feelings have become standardized and same for all. 'Miracles' have lost its dazzling meanings and nothing excites our nerves. There is a saying – eyes are the windows to the soul. In this age, the world outside our windows has become boring and monotonous. It's the same inside. People's values and ways of thinking are becoming the same. But inside each window, however, there still remain small differences. To me, the biggest intrigue is to examine those differences. For Xue Jiye, memories of the past are to be unearthed and examined like fossils and traces found at an archeological site.

In his works, the broken memory is visualized literally in ruins. In paintings such as Old House and Destroyed Red Building, solitary figures wander aimlessly on abandoned demolition sites full of broken bricks and rubble. In both paintings, a half-demolished old building that has been reduced to a shadow of its former self features prominently, as a reminder of past events. In other works by Xue Jiye, the deserted, decaying urban landscape is represented by other old abandoned spaces, such as long wide corridors or empty rooms. The sparse walls, undecorated interiors and elongated angles in paintings like Corridor, Red Building and even the wide stretch of tiled floor of Self-Portrait in a Wicker chair convey perfectly the sense of peaceful emptiness and quietude. Xue Jiye's old abandoned places are places of refuge where people can come for a moment of quiet reflection. These solitary figures seem to be looking for something but also seem to have already accepted the knowledge that it will not be found. Instead they are content with the reenactment of it in their memories.

Memories are the source of dreams, and in the series of images of people sleeping, the dreamers are depicted as literally absorbed into their memories. In the state of dreaming, they are so completely immersed in abstract reality that it is the dream/memories itself that protects them from the desolate reality of the places they sleep in; for the precious time they sleep they have been metaphorically allowed to disappear from the world outside. In fact, it almost seems as if the dreamers' dreams have somehow seeped into the Real, altering the shape of the environment around them. The urban landscape in art has characteristically stood for the risk and danger associated with modern city life, but Xue Jiye has overturned these conventions by viewing the city not through the lens of societal and cosmopolitan neuroses and anxieties but from the perspective of the common person at a particular moment in their life. For example he uses warm sepia tones and colors to ensure that the element of danger has been removed from these old urban spaces, and instead imbues them with an atmosphere of old friendly familiarity. Therefore the stretch of darkness behind the child in 'Naked Sleeping Child' becomes, not the darkness associated with childhood nightmares, but a protective blanket wrapping up the child and his vulnerable naked state. Similarly in Asleep on the Window Sill, Woman Asleep in Front of Window and Self-Portrait with Cigarette, the dreamers have nothing to fear.

The natural processes of breakdown, decay and transformation, in and between the physical world and memory, are carried one step further in the artist’s series of essentially surreal and sometimes grotesque paintings, such as Haircut, Horrified, Make-Up and The Last Mandarin. In these dream-like images, the human body itself is shown to be as capable of transcending metaphysical and physical boundaries, as the daydreams and thoughts of the human mind. In contrast to the series of sleeping figures, this series shows how the memory and ideas have direct active control over the human body. Like the deconstructed and decomposing bodies of old buildings, these human bodies have become literally shells and walls made from human flesh that are subject to all sorts of abstract manipulation.

Xue Jiye's paintings aptly demonstrate how memories that exist as abstract thoughts and daydreams are every bit as susceptible to change and decay over time as the physical world of matter around us. By skillfully combining realism with surrealism, two contrasting styles of art, the artist explores the constant play of analogy between the real and the unreal, solid matter and abstract thoughts, and in the process he reveals the unstable nature of boundaries between truth and fiction. Suddenly it seems that Truth that we considered as rock-solid or set in stone is no longer in the original state in which it was formed or found.

Xue Jiye

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