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DE SARTHE at Art Basel Hong Kong 2023

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Key takeaways

1. On the occasion of Art Basel Hong Kong 2023, DE SARTHE presents new works by five artists; Lin Jingjing, Mak2, Wang Jiajia, Wang Xin, and Zhong Wei

2. Through visual explorations of the Internet, online culture, and simulated fantasies within intangible worlds, the featured works contemplate the evolution of existence in the technological era

For Art Basel Hong Kong 2023, DE SARTHE is pleased to present Perceptible Escapisms, featuring new works by artists Lin Jingjing, Mak2, Wang Jiajia, Wang Xin, and Zhong Wei. Through visual explorations of the Internet, online culture, and simulated fantasies within intangible worlds, the featured works contemplate the evolution of existence in the technological era. With the rapid development of new technology and the constant influx of new information, living - or escaping - in the metaverse has become a source of inspiration as well as a creative tool for artists.

In an age of growing socio-economic and cultural complexities, contemporary artists have also developed meta consciousness through which they understand and comment on their surrounding environment - a paradigm in which the fetishization of art has become a form of self-gratification. Through references of the self and interaction with viewers, the featured artists present not only commentary on this phenomenon, but an introspective investigation into the different perceptions of art.

New York-based artist Lin Jingjing’s paintings consists of acrylic, print, and silk thread on canvas. Drawing inspiration from the ongoing discussions surrounding extra-terrestrial phenomena, Lin Jingjing’s new series depicts giant spaceships invading familiar cityscapes. The composition of each work is partitioned by bold, black lines, as if the viewer was looking into the distance through a window. Contrary to the historically negative connotations of “alien invasion”, Lin Jingjing’s vivid use of colour and contrast within each work carries overtones of hope and optimism. Vaguely recalling religious imagery, vibrant arrays of light radiate from the entities above, searching for life on the ground. As humanity is whisked away into the unknown, Lin Jingjing’s illustrated worlds suggest that perhaps it is to a better place.

Conceptual artist Mak2’s artworks are bound by a dualism of humour and inquisitiveness. Her iconic series Home Sweet Home consists of triptychs on canvas composed using the popular American life simulation videogame ‘The Sims’, with the individual panels of each artwork painted by a different painter found on the Chinese e-commerce platform, Taobao. In ‘The Sims’, players have absolute power to control and alter their surroundings, allowing one to live out a customized fantasy without the burdens and obstacles of reality. However, as these virtual fantasies are materialized through the physical act of painting, the final outcome becomes unpredictable due to the painters’ inconsistent skill levels, techniques, and use of materials. By enabling external factors to intervene in the process of actualization, Mak2 elucidates the inevitable disparity between reality and fantasy. Her brand-new subseries of paintings titled Home Sweet Home: Doll House, explores the growing desire for leisure and respite from contemporary urban life. Recalling childhood memories of playing with a doll house, Mak2’s subseries reflects on the role of fantasy and innocent idealism in the manufacturing of artificial utopias. As the artist’s avatar lounges amongst other Sims characters atop a glittering and shining rooftop pool, the impossible architecture surrounding them reels the mind back into the limits of reality, reminding viewers of the discrepancies between reality and fantasy.

Beijing-based artist Wang Jiajia’s work is characterized by large, eloquent eyes with vertically slit pupils that peer out through thickets of paint. Though not attached to a concrete figure, the eyes look out at viewers with a menacing and authoritative energy, referencing the eyes of end-level bosses from video games or characters of comics and cartoons. As viewers encounter the works, an exchange of gazes occurs. The involuntary interaction elucidates an intriguing relationship between an artwork and its viewer, both of which are placed in relation to the other. To an extent, the viewer finishes the artwork by looking at it, or in the case of Wang Jiajia’s paintings, the artwork looks back, finishing the viewer.

Multidisciplinary artist Wang Xin presents two new works from her latest series of interactive painting installations, titled Exploring the art world within. The installation features movable elements that either omit or reveal its inner content. Viewers may manually adjust the installation to discover the content within. In the innermost layer, a hand-painted work on silk depicts an abstract realm called ‘a collector’s dream,’ in which an imagined character, Yiyu, had fallen into after viewing a piece of art. As the viewer has ultimate control over their visual access to the paintings, their decision becomes a conceptual gesture that explores the experience of seeing and the encounter of the artwork itself. In her practice, Wang Xin frequently challenges the status of the artist and the functioning of the art world, providing a satirical reading as well as a critique of the larger ecosystem of art. She is also a certificated hypnotist and often explores creative ways of using hypnosis in art. While exploring the unconscious psyche of the human soul, Wang Xin simultaneously experiments with ways of seeing and perceiving a painting. As the moving pieces of the installation are shifted, the rotating motion of Exploring the art world within creates almost a hypnotic way of visually entering the realm of a painting.

Zhong Wei’s works on canvas are windows into contemporary culture’s most dominating technological accomplishment: The Internet. Having compiled a massive database of memes and imagery found online, Zhong Wei uses these ubiquitous images as raw material for his work and constructs fleeting snapshots of this rapidly evolving matrix. Fundamental to Zhong Wei’s practice is a concept he refers to as “coupling”. It is the idea that the endless flow of information on the Internet generates random pairings, each catalysing innumerable more possibilities. For many, the unpredictable nature of the online universe acts as an escape hatch from the monotony of real life. As the rabbit hole deepens with each click, the Internet becomes an entire alternate world parallel to physical reality – a boundless dimension in which one is free to be who they want, unshackled by the chains of real life.