Estranged Paradises
Yang Fudong at Auckland Art Gallery

Five young women move through an artificial beach landscape like sleepwalkers. They splash in the water, strike pin-up poses, and continually make eye contact with the viewer. What at first glance seems to allude to classic 50’s Technicolor cinema or billboards, gradually reveals itself to be hypnotic and puzzling staging. A live horse and stuffed stags have also wandered onto the beach. And rising from the sand are panes of colorful glass in which distorted mirror images of the young women can be seen repeatedly. Yang Fudong called his most recent work a “mirage,“ and indeed The Coloured Sky: New Women II is both real and unreal, nostalgic and futurist. Like all of the films of perhaps the most important Chinese video artist, to whom a whole floor of the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt is devoted, The Coloured Sky defies interpretation. But the play with seeing and being seen can certainly be understood as commentary on the ideal female image, and not only in China. Young, beautiful, docile – Yang’s actresses are more like coveted luxury items than real personalities.

The Coloured Sky is the highlight of Filmscapes, the Yang Fudong show at Auckland Art Gallery. In addition to his most recent work, for which he shot on high-definition video and in color for the first time, two of his elegiac black-and-white film works are being shown. In  Yejiang / The Nightman Cometh, he has a wounded warrior from a long-forgotten century encounter figures from hedonist jazz-age Shanghai. Also the artist, who was born in Beijing in 1971 and studied painting  at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, moved to the vibrant metropolis where he began to work with film and photography. The Fifth Night is actually set in 1930s China. Seven parallel screens show a complex choreography: young women and men meet on a square, only to lose each other again. Like the protagonists of  The Colored Sky, they also remain silent the entire time, are incapable of truly making contact with one another. In film-noir aesthetics the artist paints a picture of total isolation which in a poetic way also speaks of present-day China. The title of one of his first films describes exactly what Yang Fudong creates time and time again in his fascinating works: An Estranged Paradise.

Yang Fudong: Filmscapes
Until 1/25/2016
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki