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Shi Guowei’s recent creations on uninhabited scenes stem from his re-evaluation of local reality upon returning to China. Prior to this, he explored a collection of portraits that imitated Western classics with Chinese elements. Later, he realized that the richness of reality far exceeds cultural representation.

The uninhabited scenes mark an important turning point for Shi Guowei: with the absence of cultural features, these scenarios paradoxically detached from characteristic ideologies, accommodating the ambiguities of reality. Concurrently, the shift also makes Shi’s method of hand-coloring black-and-white photographs less constrained by subject matter. Here, color breaks away from reality and becomes the artist’s psychological reaction to the objective image.

In this exhibition, Shi further adapts the traditional photo-coloring process into a two-tiered structure, partitioning the world into two layers: reality and perception. Within this world layer, the artist endeavors to disrupt the objectivity of reality by manipulating stones into flesh, woods into heterogeneous spaces, and icefall into digital forms. Shi Guowei names these unreal phenomena that descend upon reality as events: sensory actions that re-initiate emotions based on images. By this, he intends to interrupt the logic of reality with a configuration of color layers.

While Shi Guowei makes subjective alterations to objective images, it is not a creation out of nothing as painting. His process lives in an intermediate state: utilizing images coded through optics as his foundation and re-coding them on the colored layer with transparency. In this way, Shi illustrates that manipulation is occurring right before our eyes. Despite the images being always visible, entirely different interpretations could be fabricated by a mere reconstruction of the object’s textures using color layers from the reality. In other words, this is a two-tiered structure akin to an encoder that translates the dynamic relationship between reality and perception, splitting new images from the dogmatic reality. For Shi Guowei, this represents an authentic illusion. Yet the real power of this structure is that it exposes another definition of transparency:

Transparency. As a concept, its visibility generates trust, circulation, and standards that sustain contemporary society. However, through his practice, Shi points out that transparency does not serve as a guarantee of truth. Instead, it is a channel through which manipulation leads to the reality. 

Shi Guowei: 2021-2023

Shi Guowei: 2021-2023

Flesh Cliff, 2021, C-print, color ink, 184 x 154cm

Shi Guowei: 2021-2023, exhibition view

Shi Guowei: 2021-2023, exhibition view

Mountain Massif, 2022, C-print, color ink, 150 x 201 cm

Shi Guowei: 2021-2023, exhibition view

Wool, 2021, C-print, color ink, 180 x 198cm

Scene A&B, 2023, C-print, color ink, 130 x 171 cm

Purple, 2021, C-print, color ink, 154 x 205cm