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December 28, 2019

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Using visual images to write a ‘novel’

HOW do you write a novel in the language of art? Artist Lu Lei has an answer.

The charm of fiction partly lies in the reader’s imagination and ability to reorganize reality. In this sense, fiction doesn’t have to be limited by the form of text. Anything based on imagination could be a fictional.

Lu’s solo exhibition, “Wander Giant,” is currently on display at ShanghART, a project he has been planning for years.

Weaving years of memories, Lu has made his perceptions and absurd thoughts a visual work of fiction with installations and sculptures. For him, absurdity doesn’t mean self-mockery or irony; it is the way the creative process should be.

Born in Jiangsu Province in 1972, Lu now works and lives in Beijing. He graduated in 1998 from the Sculpture Institute of China Academy of Art.

In “Wander Giant,” he depicts the “reveries of a wandering giant,” Lu said. The giant incarnation of collectivism, wandering in a dreamland of memories, renders his farcical daydreaming into cold, hard bodies.

The huge scattered objects and scenes are like the fragments of dreams, familiar yet strange at the same time, attracting those who have accidentally entered this space.

Factories, chimneys, bats, loudspeakers and other recurring images are connected to Lu’s childhood memories. He incorporates dimensions of the universe and space, further expanding and freeing the exhibition space.

The three exhibition halls are presented as three chapters of the novel, with imaginary themes of “Game of the Giants,” “Reveries of the Giant” and “The Giant Walking.”

Although there is no specific image of the giant, by placing him as the subject in the narrative structure, Lu embodies the influence and imprints of it everywhere. Visitors walking through the halls experience assorted images and scenes, enabling them to produce their own stories.

For example, in the passage “In the cold winter, the giants gather at the center of the square, playing marble games with sand, according to the direction of the stars,” the title itself resembles a fragment from a novel, expressing a vivid picture to viewers.

The large relief sculpture of sand molded with resin and engraved with atlases of constellations is scattered on the ground like the plates of continents. The sand balls interspersed around are reminiscent of the glass marble games that children play. However, the heavy presence and rough materials in the exhibition convey a sense of primitive mythology, as if they were ancient relics.

The “Wander Giant” continues to show Lu’s consistent personal style. Viewers can easily identify the artist’s unique creation at first sight, from its cold and restrained color expression, the sensitivity and control of industrial materials and the mysterious imagery of personal memory and social symbols.

Although the exhibition will produce various interpretations when viewed by the public, Lu believes the purpose of art is “to create for no one but myself!” — reminiscent of novelist J.D. Salinger, who once famously said, “I write for myself, for my own pleasure. Salute for myself!”


Date: Through December 29 (closed on Mondays), 11am-6pm

Venue: ShanghART, West Bund

Address: Bldg 10, 2555 Longteng Ave


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