Loading Events
  • This event has passed.
Zhang Yexing, Out of the Windows, 2022
Xu Hongxiang, A Good View No. 10, 2017
Yan Heng, Absinthe, 2021

Thesis/Antithesis: Part 2

28 April 2022 - 5 June 2022



Ora-Ora is pleased to announce the line-up for Part 2 of its thrilling two-part exhibition entitled Thesis/Antithesis. The show is curated by Sovereign Art prize finalist Gary Mok Wai Hong with support from Kris Fan. Following the success of Part 1 (which featured artists Chen Yingjie and Huang Yulong), Part 2’s artists are contemporary Chinese artists Cai Yaling, Xu Hongxiang, Yan Heng and Zhang Yexing.

Thesis/Antithesis: Part 2’s artists represent a subtle, linear progression from past masters, channelling language of the past to probe interwoven generational connections, the overwhelming force of memory, or the wondrous absurdities of seduction or human agency. Visitors will be urged to address their own experience and personal history as an impetus or hinderance to their own momentum.

Central Academy of Fine Arts-educated (“CAFA”) Zhang Yexing presents works of oil on canvas, gathering the flotsam of our common memories. Ranged before him in the studio are images from film, from political events, or from family history, creating “painting as a continuous work, with the accumulation of materials over time.” What emerges is a stuffed larder of noise, emotions and thoughts. Zhang Yexing’s artworks reflect the willingness of all four artists to delve into the treasures of yesterday, to challenge contemporary assumptions through the might of learning and of history. His painting process is one of layering, of correcting himself, eventually presenting a completed painting which is itself a layered excavation, thick and replete with oil.

Xu Hongxiang’s art has a distinctive sense of place, born from his selectively cropped presentation of the scenery and landscapes he interprets. Creating scenes which hint at fauvist colour schemes, he forms a patchwork of hues and textures which are rooted in a subjective scent of milieu and ambience. Also a CAFA graduate, his metalwork practice lends a distinctive materiality to his painterly depictions of people, trees and flora.

Thesis/Antithesis Part 2’s artists dissect contemporary life through a lens of admiration for the pioneers that preceded them. In the words of Sir Isaac Newton, if they have been able to see further, it is by “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Each of these artists draws the red line from inspiration to the inspired, channelling imagery or materials from the past, to comment on the present and the human condition. Boundaries form an inspiration rather than a limitation. In the words of Zhang Yexing, “There is a lot to explore and discover on canvas, so I choose to stay within one medium and explore the rules of painting.”

Artist Cai Yaling is currently under the tutelage of ground-breaking artist Xu Bing at CAFA. Her work We Are No Different (2020) weaves biological connections between generations. Photographing her hair, her mother’s and her daughter’s hair to build a spliced cross-generational narrative that resembles the liquid history of the sea, she writes a chronicle which is both eternal, universal and resolutely personal. Her practice is rooted in the notion that all women are connected, forging a positive message of communion, sisterhood and solidarity. We will also be presenting BITCHES (2020), a provocative artwork of beads and stainless steel. The painfully layered word is explored in full sight, inviting visitors to contemplate the shadow it casts as much as the word itself.

Yan Heng presents images which draw on varied narratives of our forebears. Embodiments of glamour and seduction are paired with Salvador Dali-esque mischief and gentle ribaldry. Bright young socialites from yesteryear are lost in a reverie of the previous night, creating a double layer of memory and distance. The artist playfully explores the wayward and powerful effects of Absinthe on artists and creators in the early 20th century, merging history with a dose of the fantastical. He deploys monochrome and a full colour palette with equal ferocity to illuminate astonishing juxtapositions and seeming contradictions, creating memento mori of menacing frivolity. He draws inspiration from Paris, endorsing Ernest Hemingway’s nostalgia for the city, “for Paris is a moveable feast.” Just as the city of light continues to inspire Yan Heng – reminiscences of the past crowd onto the canvas in the present. Yan Heng poses the question: do these remnants preclude or encourage innovation and human agency?

Is the human experience one of gentle forward progress in careful appreciation of yesterday, or one of fresh departures and disruptive innovations? This exhibition ponders two Chinese idioms, 长江后浪推前浪 and 姜是老的辣. Firstly, whether the waves of the Yangtze beat onwards anew, leaving the past behind, or alternatively, whether our elders may have understood more than we. The title of the exhibition alludes to a thesis as an academic text, where students cite past research and publications in patient pursuit of an academic qualification. Antithesis is its opposite: in this case, a bold breakout into dangerous new terrain. Thesis and antithesis are the two strands of dialectical reasoning, as pursued by Aristotle and Hegel. Visitors to Thesis/Antithesis: Part 2 may apply the question to their own lives – is the force of the past holding me back from accomplishments today, or does it inspire me to change, to achieve, and to rise higher?

The gallery’s interior will morph from its current presentation of urban contemporary reality in China, featuring Part 1’s artists Huang Yulong and Chen Yingjie, to a staging which presents past and present less as two distinct constructs, but as one time. The setting invites a conversation between what has gone, what is now, and what will come to pass.

By Appointment Only
Email: rsvp@ora-ora.com


Cai Yaling was born in 1984 in Jinzhong, Shanxi Province, China. She graduated from the Sculpture Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, later attaining a masters. She is currently studying for a PhD from the same institution. Among other topics, Cai Yaling explores the meeting points of generations of women, both connected and unconnected to each other. She has harnessed gathered materials, including her hair, and that of her mother and her daughter, weaving new narratives from human thread. Crystal beads and vintage photography also serve as departure points for explorations and challenges of memory and contemporary culture. Awards have included the Signature Art Prize, 2019 and the Prix Yishu8 Chine in the same year. Solo exhibitions include “Reconstructed Emotion” at Mingtai Space, China (2016), “All Right?” at Guangdong Museum of Art (2020) and “There May be No Peels in this Shell,” Leo Gallery, China (2020).

Xu Hongxiang was born in 1984 in Changsha, Hunan Province, China. He graduated with a bachelor’s and subsequent master’s degree from the printmaking department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. He lives and works in Beijing. The artist often presents a cropped image of landscape, inviting speculation about what has been obscured or edited out, and harnesses sunlight in a way which simultaneously illuminates and confuses. He operates on aluminium as well as canvas. In 2016, he won the Discover Future award from Art Power 100. Solo exhibitions include “An Exuberant View” at the Hubei Museum of Art (2019) and “Not Dark Yet” at the Triumph Gallery in Beijing (2018). His work is in the collections of the Hubei Museum of Art, the Frank F. Yang Art & Education Foundation in Shenzhen and the Today Art Museum in Beijing among others.

Yan Heng was born in Jinzhou, Liaoning, China in 1982 and graduated from the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts in 2007. Yan Heng’s painterly works assert the power of figurative paintings to tease and provoke as well as to explore complex and mysterious narratives. He offers an unflinching view of mankind’s reliance on extraneous objects which crowd our living space and our consciousness, creating a cluttered, disorderly viewpoint on the world. More recently, he has explored the edge of the surreal and the fantastical, inviting a comic slant on contemporary life. He appropriates quasi-photographic images which seem to have sprung from the recent past, in order to urge commentary on our future. Yan Heng’s work is in the collections of the Yuz Museum, HOW Art Museum, Tank Shanghai, Uli Sigg and others. Solo exhibitions include “Absinthe” at Arario Gallery, Shanghai (2019), “De la peinture” at Galerie Sator, Paris (2016) and “Frequency Modulation (FM)” at ARARIO Museum, Shanghai (2016).

Zhang Yexing was born in 1984 in Liaoning Province, China. He graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and now lives and works in Beijing. The artist has said: “There is a lot to explore and discover on canvas, so I choose to stay within one medium and explore the rules of painting.” He creates, recreates and modifies his paintings on one canvas, presenting a finished product which is heavily painted and re-covered with layers of oil and pigments. His paintings explore crowded places and thriving, bustling interiors, where objects seem to have formed communities which have driven out current habitation; these worlds are museums of memories. Time itself is memorialized on canvas – or as the artist says: “Painting is the art of time, it solidifies time on the canvas, and I hope my work is solidified by time.” Zhang Yexing’s solo exhibitions include a show at Bernier/Eliades in Athens (2017) and three exhibitions at Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing (2020).


28 April 2022
5 June 2022
Event Category:

Leave a Reply