Ma Jianfeng: Metallic Jubilee

Ma Jianfeng, Treasure Island, 2019. Acrylic on cardboard, H 100 x W 120cm. Courtsey the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett
Installation view, ‘Ma Jianfeng. Treasure Island,’ GAO, London, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett
Ma Jianfeng, Untitled F13, 2019. Acrylic on cardboard, masking tape. (Top) H 100 x W 38 x D 24.5 cm, (Bottom) H 100 x W 37 x D 33 cm. Courtsey the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett
Installation view, ‘Ma Jianfeng. Treasure Island,’ GAO, London, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett
Ma Jianfeng, Untitled F14, 2019. Acrylic on cardboard, masking tape. (Top) H 26.5 x W 39.8 x D 17 cm, (Bottom) H 100 x W 30 x D 30 cm. Courtsey the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett
Installation view, ‘Ma Jianfeng. Treasure Island,’ GAO, London, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett
Ma Jianfeng, Untitled M5, 2019. Acrylic on cardboard, (Top) H 99 x W 62 x D 29 cm, (Bottom) H 38 x W 46 x D 31 cm. Courtsey the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett
Installation view, ‘Ma Jianfeng. Treasure Island,’ GAO, London, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett
Ma Jianfeng, Treasure Island, 2019. Acrylic on cardboard, H 100 x W 120cm. Courtsey the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett
TOP
518
31
0
 
5
Jul
5
Jul
CoBo Social Chinese Abstraction Series

GAO in London is the scene for Chinese artist Ma Jianfeng’s first UK show. He speaks to us about transforming the gallery space into a site-specific cardboard city, full of improvised vertical, foldable surfaces, rising to meet an urban canopy.

Text: Nicholas Stephens
Images: Courtesy of the Artist and GAO, London

 

 

Installation view, ‘Ma Jianfeng. Treasure Island,’ GAO, London, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett

 

What are the properties of cardboard? Bendy, soggy when wet, ubiquitous as protest placard, parcel container or box: a material hewn from nature itself. After this exhibition, is it time to reassess the value of this everyday material?

The show is broadly comprised of vibrant, colourful part one and sombre, metallic part two – those familiar with Ma Jianfeng’s work will recognize the childlike exuberance of the former, and be confronted with the muted restraint of the latter for the first time.

 

 

Ma Jianfeng, Untitled F13, 2019. Acrylic on cardboard, masking tape. (Top) H 100 x W 38 x D 24.5 cm, (Bottom) H 100 x W 37 x D 33 cm. Courtsey the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett

 

 

The title in English is Treasure Island, which will echo in the western mind with Robert Louis Stevenson’s thrilling 19th century adventure novel, festooned with treasure chests and sinister wooden-legged pirates. The link is clear from the Chinese title: ⾦银岛 Gold, Silver Island, said to be the artist’s response to seeing London for the first time. Some of the swashbuckling joy of the book rises to meet the eye at GAO. The gallery becomes a temporary theatre, acting out the artist’s impressions of the city outside, and his musings on the world’s power structures.

In this junction of painting and sculpture, the visitor steps into immersive transience. The deliberate use of a traditionally throwaway, unnoticed medium seems to best allow an escape from the material into an examination of the intangible. We also learn to appreciate cardboard.

 

 

Installation view, ‘Ma Jianfeng. Treasure Island,’ GAO, London, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett

 

 

We spoke to Ma Jianfeng and asked him to explain the influencing factors behind Treasure Island:

-In English, Treasure Island makes us think of pirates and buried treasure. The Chinese title of the exhibition reminds us of gold and silver. And yet the show is made of cardboard! Please explain.

Cardboard as the medium of my practice, is my treasure. Cardboard is also a treasure of mankind. It is produced, in exchange for gold, silver and wisdom, but also at a cost for the environment. It is true gold and silver.

 

 

Ma Jianfeng, Untitled F14, 2019. Acrylic on cardboard, masking tape. (Top) H 26.5 x W 39.8 x D 17 cm, (Bottom) H 100 x W 30 x D 30 cm. Courtsey the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett

 

-Can you tell us about what made you choose cardboard as a key material for your exhibition? In London in the 1980s, there was an area called Cardboard City, which was a famous centre of homelessness. I wonder if there is any connection?
My choice of cardboard as the main material for this exhibition has nothing to do with Cardboard City in London. Cardboard is a material that I have used extensively in my practice. Its ductile and portable properties are the main reasons why I chose this solo exhibition in London.

 

 

 

-There is a vertical, upward orientation to some of your works in this show. Some parts of London have become very tall, and the Hutongs are more horizontal. Are there elements of city landscapes here?
The upward orientation in this exhibition is more about a form of power symbolized by the ancient totem. The second space is inspired by the silver Jubilee Line of the London Underground, an element from the underground city landscape.

 

 

Installation view, ‘Ma Jianfeng. Treasure Island,’ GAO, London, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett

 

 

-Could you tell us about the choice of colour in your work? Your colours are often exuberant, but at GAO in London you have chosen some darker, more metallic colours too.
In the first space, I have chosen more colours from the natural landscape. The colours ultramarine and golden yellow symbolize wealth and power. More metallic colours are used in the second space, reflecting the properties of matters and objects in London. But personally I find metallic colours more exuberant.

 

 

Ma Jianfeng, Untitled M5, 2019. Acrylic on cardboard, (Top) H 99 x W 62 x D 29 cm, (Bottom) H 38 x W 46 x D 31 cm. Courtsey the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett

 

 

-You have lived in Berlin and London. How have your experiences in Europe affected your development as an artist?
My experience in Europe had a deep influence on me, and made it more clear how it was possible to be an artist.

 

 

Installation view, ‘Ma Jianfeng. Treasure Island,’ GAO, London, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett

 

-What plans do you have for the near future?
I will be doing a residency on a Malaysian island for one and half months in the next six months.

 

Ma Jianfeng Treasure Island
Jun 5th 2019 – July 13th 2019
Gao Gallery, London

 

 

Ma Jianfeng, Treasure Island, 2019. Acrylic on cardboard, H 100 x W 120cm. Courtsey the Artist and GAO, London. Photo by Jonathan Bassett

 

 

 

About the Artist
Ma Jianfeng (b.1983, China) currently lives and works in Beijing. He is a graduate both of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou and the Universität der Künste in Berlin. Solo exhibitions include The U-Cloister, Institute for Provocation, Beijing (2018); MA, Ying Space, Beijing (2016); Wall, Don Gallery, Beijing (2013). Selected group exhibitions include Guangzhou Airport Biennale, Shenzhen, Guangzhou (2019); Gwangju AAC International Residency, AAC, Gwangju (2018); The New Normal: China, Art and 2017, UCCA, Beijing, CN (2017).

 


 

Nicholas Stephens is from London and has lived in Hong Kong for the last nine years, where he works for a leading Hong Kong gallery, specializing in contemporary ink. His articles on diverse aspects of the Hong Kong arts scene have been published in “Art Hong Kong”. A graduate in Modern Languages (European ones unfortunately!), Nicholas has authored translations of novels and plays by writers including Stefan Zweig and Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

 

 

 
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply