Wiltopia: Tong Kunniao
Hua International is pleased to announce Wiltopia, Tong Kunniao’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. One of the most celebrated young artists working in China today, Tong Kunniao has built a reputation for creating immersive worlds that bristle with dark humor. He uses found materials and freely samples aesthetic impulses from Chinese and Western art histories to articulate idiosyncratic,highly personal multimedia reflections upon our current state of social,ecological,andpolitical crisis. In his new exhibition with Hua International, Kunniao creates an immersive universe entitled “wiltopia,” a fantastical world—perhaps not so unlike our near future—in which human beings are increasingly divided, segregated, and controlled while their impact on nature begins to bite back. Although Kunniao does not explicitly identify as a “political” artist, his work nonetheless grapples with systems of repressive social control,the quantification and mechanization of human experience, and the fragility of all life in the Anthropocene.
Two characters repeatedly appear in different forms throughout the exhibition: the flea and “alternative natural person,”a quasi-bionic hybrid figure possessing human, machine, and animal characteristics. Inspired by how fleas only jump as high as a perceived limitation—regardless of whether the limitation continues to exist or not—Kunniao conceives of the flea as a symbol of mediocrity, group think, and malaise. Two performers activate an outsized flea sculpture over the course of the exhibition to enact a sardonic choreography of the status quo. The “alternative natural person”is the protagonist of the portrait series The Controller Under Control,which situates hyper-realistically painted disembodied female mannequin heads amidst a setting that resembles traditional Chinese landscape painting. Kunniao absorbs such formal resonances into his own eclectic artistic ecosystem but does not follow any sort of conventional techniques or criteria. In The Controller under Control 1,a synthetic female face blankly stares at the implements of her own bondage. Her head is encased within a copper-colored structure that resembles a kind of torture device, but quickly reveals itself to be a cheap vintage earring rack. Kunniao cheekily riffs upon the optics of domination in this work, festooning his captive automaton with objects like chains, racks, and metal studs that call to mind instruments of restraint and punishment,but are actually painted depictions of actual cheap jewelry, bric-a-brac, and bondage gear that the artist found browsing Berlin flea markets and uses in his kinetic sculptures. In contrast to the light,ethereal quality of The Controller Under Control paintings, the painting series The Scene Inside the Flea depicts jarring scenes of transformation. Painted in a style more resembling classic Sci-Fi illustration, some of the same objects from The Controller under Control appear again, but in a radically different formal idiom. Rendered in shades of crimson, orange, yellow, and black, the paintings depict the interior life of an insect as a foreboding sort of social machine in the fiery throes of destruction or renewal.
Tong Kunniao completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Sculpture Institute of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA).Since then he has had exhibitions in museums like the Yuz Museum, Shanghai, the PowerLong Museum, Shanghai or Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Peking.Tong lives and works in Beijing.
For further information and high-resolution images please contact Xinyi Yang: xinyi.yang@hua- international.com or call + 49 (0) 30 257 92410.