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In Sight

Mao Guanshuai's practice is the art of finding and hiding. The artist is a fan of collecting fossils of animals that have been buried under the sand of the Songhua River in Heilongjiang Province for tens of thousands of years and have now been unwily salvaged in the process of mechanical dredging. He loves  the lines of these fossil forms, the primitive lines that time have stripped away or hidden. In the beginning, there are thousands of lines that outlined what we see, and only the undoubted ones have survived the ordeal of time. Lines are the only attitude of fossils. They mystify the past, revealing the time and space of history. The starting point of Mao Guanshuai's work is to find the right one among thousands of lines, which conforms to the law of time operation, that is, to find the right space and time for the existence of things."I don't do anything specific." Said Mao. Since 2013, he began to contact wood carving, which he regarded as the core medium of his creation. First, he tried to use wood to make some human figures and animal models, which of course did not reflect specific forms. Obsessive focus on what the image is, intensifies the symbolic and narrative meaning while ignoring the material itself, so that the object to be watched lacks the tension brought by the physical characteristics of the material, which is the problem faced by the artist. In Mao's most famous "Black Series", the fine and heavy black sandalwood of East Africa is retained in its original deep black color to create a variety of "entities that cannot be directly found in the real world". The lines that make up the work are the result of the artist's search and recovery in life, but the other half of the creation lies in concealment. Mao Guanshuai hides the symbolic interpretation that we should see, leaving only those comfortable things in the shape, such as the posture of a flower opening, the expectation of a section of bamboo growing upward. The conflict between form and material can easily lead art into a kind of uncompromising fiction, but Mao's practice avoids such confrontation. Within the narrow creative dimension of sculpture, the form and material both show the true power. At the end of 2020, Mao and his friends visited Suzhou gardens, a trip that inspired the new works in the exhibition. As the "domain of beauty and beauty", "garden" constitutes the background color of "paradise" in Chinese cultural history. In addition to aesthetic value, it is also regarded as a spiritual place for enlightenment and enlightenment. But Mao did not attempt to depict anything that highlighted the Oriental atmosphere. Following the steps of finding lines in buildings, stones and vegetation, the artist maintained the principle of subtraction, first creating a series of charcoal sketches that were stripped of form, and then developing dozens of sculptures based on the latter. Among them, the weight of the wood are to be an artist in the creation of new focus, large and thick the wood is used to complete the huge volume work quickly, they first provides sensory impact, its weight will distinguish from the artist's works, new production are also put an end to the era of industrialization decorations. It is an instinct to see that the eyes are attracted to huge things, which makes it more difficult for artists to "hide". We might think of it this way: the concealment of the hairy prince is not a confrontation, because the real thing has no place to hide. Through trial and error of wood wax techniques and a gentle acceptance of natural cracks in wood, the artist's new works restore their purity. Dozens of sculptures of different sizes, standing or lying, are stranded in the four corners of the space, looking from inside to outside. In the contrast between the individual and the group, some energy that is enough to pour into the gaze is born. The holes running through the front and back of the sculpture form a new clue in the exhibition that is different from Mao's previous work. Once again, there is nothing to hide in the holes that the arms can easily penetrate. Compared with the features of artistic modeling, "penetration" is more psychological. It is the strength and constraint, and also the nature of any space, which makes the sensory experience full. The unique "folk art" attribute of wood carving is also something that Mao Guanshuai cherishes and tries to develop, which gives the work a "hand" feeling. He chose to work with trusted carpenters for a long time and to incorporate their experience into his own work. In 2016, Mao Guanshuai became attached to Japanese lacquer artist Akagi Aoyama, and further studied the integration and evolution of craftsmanship within the category of "folk art". Liu Zongyue believes: "Beauty should not be a sensory judgment caused by vision, but should be in harmony with people's life." It is the essence of "harmony" that Mao Guanshuai is trying to show. Such art does not represent an aesthetic conquest, but condenses, hides and seeks the moment of convergence in the process of absorbing everything in life.



Liang Xiao

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