Shi Guowei

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Shi Guowei (b. 1977), currently lives and works in Beijing, and studied at the Fachhochschule, Dortmund. For his graduation, he took inspiration from the technique of hand-coloring photographs influenced from his parent’s generation. Through processes of using Kodak C-print, he first chemically develops the black and white print onto photographic paper – this becomes the ‘base color’ – before final hand painting the final layers to complete it. It is a traditional hand technique, which shares more than one hundred years of history with black and white photography – and it reappears again to beguile a new audience. For a long period of time, photography has become associated as an ‘objective’ form of reproducing objects. Taken this idea further, today the photographic technologies have reached a point of practically becoming an omnipotent presence in our lives. Shi Guowei uses his own work to challenge this point – “There is still distance between color perceived with the naked eye, which far surpasses that of the lens. Color obtained in color photography still falls short to the vivid qualities of nature – in fact it pales in comparison. On the contrary, through the mind and its memory of the photographed scene, color is mixed and applied according to what feels appropriate to the scene – adding lucidity to the image as well as a heightened accuracy.”

Major exhibitions include: Magician Space, Beijing (2019/2016); Art Basel Hong Kong (2018/2017); Chinese Whispers: Recent Art from the Sigg Collection, MAK Museum Vienna, Vienna (2019); Changjiang International Photography and Video Biennale, Chongqing (2017); Nature: A Subjective Place, Shanghai Center of Photography (SCoP), Shanghai (2016); Don’t Shoot the Painter, Galleriad’ Arte Moderna Milano, Italy (2015); The Civil Power, Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing, China (2015); The Bright Eye of the Universe, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, New York, USA (2015); Made in China, London, UK (2013); 6th Chengdu Biennale, Chengdu, China (2013); ‘Pop Sensation’ from the UBS Art Collection, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, China (2012); China: Memories & Imagination, Albemarle Gallery, London, UK (2011); Dimplom-Arbeiten Dortmund Photography Exhibition, Germany (2006).

A Walk in the Woods, exhibition view

Left: Flourish Green, 2018, painting on photograph, 140 x 111cm
Right: Growing, 2019, painting on photograph, 96 x 83cm

A Walk in the Woods, exhibition view

Lichens, 2018, painting on photograph, 164 x 135.5cm

Crossing Four Girls Mountain, exhibition view

Crossing Four Girls Mountain, exhibition view

Karen Smith | A Walk in the Woods with Shi Guowei

“So, whilst Shi Guowei may have made a fine photographer, he was also possessed of a strong interest in painting, which could not be denied. Thus, the practice he has adopted and evolved satisfies both interests, offering a neat solution to these parallel concerns. At the same time, it consciously blurs the boundary between painting and photography, undermining the apparent reality of a photograph with the conceptual invention of a painting in ways that are deceptive because they are barely apparent.”