CHINESE CUTTING EDGE
NOV 17, 2017 – FEB 14, 2018
The madness of present-day city life.
What is China’s present, as expressed by C.H.I,
the most noticed
contemporary artist in Beijing?
This time, from November 17th to February 14th, 2018, DIESEL ART GALLERY will hold a solo exhibition by Chinese photographer C.H.I, “CHINESE CUTTING EDGE” the first of its kind in Japan.
The curator of this exhibition is Yasuma- sa Yonehara, who is known within Japan as an editor, as well as an occasional instant camera photographer. Mr. Yonehara, who boasts 2.36 million followers on Weibo (also known as the Chinese Twitter), and who also displays his activities overseas, got acquainted with C.H.I in 2012. That year, he visited C.H.I’s solo exhibition in Beijing, at a gallery run by the same curator who had handled his own exhibition. Seeing C.H.I’s work, with all sorts of eccentric and fashionable presentations he had never seen until now, gave him a shock stronger than anything from Japan could give. Five years have since passed. Mr. Yonehara had been looking for a chance to introduce C.H.I to Tokyo as a Chinese cutting-edge artist.
Me! A punk dropout!
After dropping out I got into photography, and I noticed that the world of photos has guys who end up as nuts as some do in the world of music. I’m a rebel by birth. But my sense of responsibility is as strong as an old guy or a model Communist!
One day I broke my bass guitar and got a camera instead.
I made up my mind to show off amazing stuff to idiots!
Now please, won’t you all come see photos of this insane world?
These pictures are like a roar, a slap in the face to the society we live in and the idiots.
This exhibition will showcase around 60 of C.H.I’s main works, and display new ones. During the exhibition, DIESEL ART GALLERY will sell exhibited works as well as related goods.
Adored by Chinese youth, especially those born since the '80s, C.H.I not only displays talent as an artist, but also in diverse fields as a photographer, designer, rock singer, director, magazine founder, or even an editor-in-chief. The boundaries of art, fashion, pop culture, or genre do not exist before him. C.H.I was born in Shijiazhuang in 1981. He was raised freely by parents who noticed his talent from pictures he drew at a young age on the house walls. In middle school, he discovered "punk," and in high school formed a band. Although he attended art school, he was immersed in his band. In 1999, formally created a band called "THE PUNCH-DRUNK SYMPTOM" and, with his own tunes, started domestic tours with other bands of the same generation. He entered Hebei Normal University (College of Arts) but, despairing at a lack of flexibility, dropped out. "THE PUNCH-DRUNK SYMPTOM" climbed to the top of the underground but disbanded in 2003. In 2005, he became the art director of the Rolling Stone magazine and, in 2007, launched a one-of-a-kind art magazine "O'ZINE - Code", to which he was appointed editor and art director. In 2010, he held his first solo exhibition abroad at Sydney's White Rabbit Gallery, and the following year founded his own art company C.H.I FACTORY. In recent years, he has been working in film production.
- ･ [Grain to pixel] Monash Gallery of Art Merbourne, Australia
- ･ [Grain to pixel] Shanghai Center of Photography Shanghai,China
- ･ Exhibition for Nominated Young Artist in Asia Today Art Museum Beijing, China
- ･ White Rabbit contemporary Chinese art collection white rabbit gallery, Sydney, Australia
- ･ Photokina, Cologne, Germany
- ･ [dislocation] SH Contemporary, Shanghai, China
- ･ [dislocation] solo exhibition, Aetherspace, Beijing, China
- ･ [humble murderous] shcontemporary, Shanghai, China
- ･ [redstar motel] art HK 10,Hong Kong,China
Editor, artist. His work, influenced by the Tokyo street girls culture, is often presented in a media format. He is also an agitator of women's underground culture since the '90s. He strongly sensed the influence of social networks early on, and developed activities around the theme "How Japanese is that, then?" He currently sends out daily updates on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Weibo. In June 2017, he made an artistic statement by holding three solo exhibitions with different approaches on the same theme, and progressed to new levels.
DESIRE IN THE CAN, 2015 © C.H.I
SIX FEET UNDER, 2012 © C.H.I
TUMBLEDOWN SPLENDID PERFORMANCE, 2014 © C.H.I
SOCIAL NEW RELIGION, 2014 © C.H.I
- Curator Statement
- Yasumasa Yonehara
- The Chinese art scene today
The “growing tension with China” conveyed in news is missing from city dwellers’ expressions and thoughts.
These impressions are not broadcast by Chinese media, so we have to start by getting to know Chinese individuals. It is nearly impossible to figure out from the political propaganda that the West diffuses every day.
“What can you do in art?” Represent the artists’ reality through their filter. And let the viewers perceive that reality.
The artist we’re introducing this time, C.H.I, started his artistic activities in 1996 when he formed a hardcore punk band, made flyers for their live performances and the like, in the small city of Shijiazhuang, southwest of Beijing. His red mohawk, visible in movies of that time, tells us a history of China we do not know.
And now, C.H.I’s artwork touches on many topics, and continues to branch out even more.
When seeing these works, one common image springs forth. A truth: the brighter a light shines, the darker the shadow it casts.
Photo: Norihisa Kimura
― Could you please introduce yourself?
I’m a photographer, and former punk rocker. Currently, I’m a fashion visual artist transcending the borders of various things.
-- Please tell me the highlight of this exhibition.
For this exhibition, I’ve self-selected some of my best work spanning the last eight years, and presented it in a way that makes my personal style clearly visible. I believe that it is a style that can be appreciated world-wide! Amongst everything, the best part is being able to view my newest work, the “REAL FAKE” series.
-- Please talk a little about your creative process.
The shooting of each work is very difficult, and requires a great number of different steps to be carried out by many different staff members. In this way, each photo can be thought of as the fruit of everyone’s collective labor throughout the enjoyable, yet challenging, process. There are especially a lot of cost-related problems that arise, and I often had to come up with a primitive sort of solution. During the “REAL FAKE” series, one of the assistants mistakenly sent an unfinished work to Japan, so I brought all of my tools with me, and finally finished the work in the hotel the day before the opening of the exhibition. It was rather funny, as the act of working like that fit in quite well with the creative theme. (laughs.)
-- Tell me about what Mr. Yonehara, who handled the curation this time around, means to you.
“Yone” is capable of really appreciating my work. He sees my ability, and draws out my potential. Even though we speak different languages, I know in my heart that he really understands me!
-- You have also formed a hardcore punk band, and are active in the music scene as well. What kind of effect does this have on your artwork?
Rock and punk music freed my heart! I learned that there didn’t have to be any limits to creation, and I gained the willpower to face challenges head on! Since the beginning of the punk music scene in China very much underground at the time, I was also able to cultivate an original attitude. These have all deeply influenced my life…
-- After working as the art director for “Rolling Stone” magazine, you went on to found the art magazine “O’ZINE – Symbol”, and are now serving as both the magazine’s editor and art director. Please tell me about the challenges you faced, and new discoveries you had.
I got into photography because I saw a lot of Western works while I was with “Rolling Stone”. That’s what made me want to take photographs. After that, visual art was my focus in the magazine I started, “O’ZINE – Symbol”, as well. My jobs with the two magazines really broadened my world. Seeing art photos from around the globe became the foundation of my work from that point forward. But it would seem as though I wasn’t cut out to be a merchant, and after a short while, “O’ZINE - Symbol” suspended publication.
-- What is the source of your inspiration?
All of my inspiration comes from this country in which I live my life. I get inspiration from the problems and incidents that arise during rapid development.
-- Please tell me about the current fashion and culture scene in China.
I think that the current development in China is more than what was expected. Whenever I come back to Beijing after being off somewhere on a business trip, they’ll have built a new road or something. The speed of development is truly amazing. So, the speed and ability that can be felt within fashion and culture right now is also beyond imagination. There are more and more free-spirited young people, and they are fervently pursuing the realization of their dreams through their powers of imagination and creativity. There are some cases where they don’t comprehend the fundamentals of the culture, but I feel as though their passion and desire to pursue their dreams is what’s important. Current Chinese music and fashion culture especially, are on the cutting-edge worldwide. I’d like to have Chinese culture be more well-known across the globe.
-- Out of all the works you have been involved with up until now, which ones have left the strongest lasting impression on you?
There are four stages to my works, and I feel as though they are clearly distinguishable from each other. 01. “Red Star Motel” was my first visual art piece, and was done in the style of black humor. 02. “Huoguo” (HOTPOT), then had the feeling of a fusion of black humor and fashion culture. The third, “Lover’s Skin”, was a work on which I used various techniques comprehensively. I feel as though the fourth, “REAL FAKE”, is the pinnacle of my expression, integrating all of my art styles up until now.
-- How do you spend your time off?
-- Please tell me if there are any artists or movies, etc. that have influenced you.
At first, I was influenced by surrealist artist Salvador Dali, pop artist Andy Warhol, and Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani. After that, photographer GUY BOURDIN, and film directors David Lachapelle and Quentin Tarantino have greatly influenced me.
-- What was it like staying in Tokyo? Did you discover anything?
Tokyo was fun. I recorded my own media, “ CHANNELCHI ”, on the theme of Tokyo and introduced interesting youth and fashion culture.
-- Please tell me about your future projects.
I’m working on an exhibition planned for April of this year in Beijing, and at the same time, I’m also working on new pieces as well. Additionally, I’m working on preparations for a movie that I’ll direct. I’m making progress, while overcoming many difficulties. I’m hoping to complete it within the year.
-- Please give a message to the people who will be viewing your work.
I think that this exhibition not only allows people to understand my creative style, but also to feel as though they have truly entered China through a separate, large, door. This is free China, a China full of uproar! Don’t just go through life in a predetermined way! COME ON!!! “BE A BASTARD”!!!
Photo: Norihisa Kimura
― Could you please introduce yourself?
I’m an editor and artist.
-- Please tell me the circumstances that led to this exhibition being held.
As my number of followers on WEIBO increased to 2.36 million, starting around five years ago, I’ve been invited to China around once a month. Every time I went there, I learned more about the real China, rather than the news, and realized the fact that there were many things that were not being introduced to Japan. As a result, I thought that it was very important for me to introduce some of the information that never made it to Japan that only I was able to.
-- What sort of meaning is contained in the title, “CHINESE CUTTING EDGE”?
It means, through knowing the most up-to-date information about China, is it perhaps possible to open a hole somewhere in Japan, like an information Galapagos?
-- If you had to pick a favorite from amongst C.H.I.’s works, which piece would you select?
The collage made of threads in the work called “MADHOUSE IN CHINA SERIES”. In particular, MACHINE.
-- You are also well-known in China, and have been active in various countries across Asia, such as having a solo exhibition in Taiwan. Have you felt any big differences between the Japanese art and culture scene, and that of other countries? How do you feel about their futures?
I feel as though, when creating a work, the fact that they don’t just look within their own country, but overseas as well, is a major difference.
-- Please tell me about your future projects.
In 2018, I’m planning to regularly hold events combining my works with those of artists I curate, and musical artists. I also plan to hold more of my solo exhibitions overseas.
-- Please give a message to the people who will be viewing the exhibition.
I would like people to be surprised at how Chili's [the artist's chosen English name] contemporaneity transcends national borders, and for them to realize that the potential for artists such as him to emerge already exists within China.