The five stunning digitally constructed photographs in the exhibition, titled “Mood Is Never Better Than Memory,” show a personal, introspective side of Chi Peng, an artist better known for his self-chosen role as mischievous critic of China’s reflective rush into economic and social transformation. A photo that portrays this is by another artist to the left.
‘October’ (2010) presents Chi in his costume of the Monkey King, which he created for his previous “Journey to the West” series, where he appeared as a super-hero adapted from the classic Chinese novel of the same title. Seated on the shore near the town of his birth, he gazes out to sea past a retreating flock of seabirds and toward the two mist-shrouded suns on the horizon. This piece is obviously digitally manipulated and also allegorical, with the twin suns representing the equally attractive forces of historical memory and modernization. But even the realistic elements are a product of Photoshop: Chi positioned each bird individually.
‘February’ (2010) symbolizes Chi’s position as China’s only openly homosexual artist. An older couple stand on the edge of a pier, looking out; they represent Chi’s parents, who choose to deny their son’s homosexuality. Chi and his partner approach them, holding hands with a small boy who represents their mutual inner discovery. The drama is dwarfed by the surrounding seascape.
A similar contrast between the artist’s impulse to share his story and his sense of its triviality is seen in ‘June’ (2010), in which two images of Chi face away from each other on an oval sandbar or island, above which the confused flock of birds hovers. The symmetry of the island would lead one to expect that the two Chis would be mirror images, but they are not. In a subtle touch, one of the artist’s twin selves is slightly more slump-shouldered and downcast than the other.
The above review was by J Callum, a respected art critic from USA.