Chinese artist Cai Zebin deals in the fantastical. At times, it can be difficult to discern whether his work is mocking satire or fine art. Take, for example, the oversized hydrating face mask, proudly showcased on the lawn of Shanghai’s Capsule Gallery as part of his new exhibition A Revisit at 2 bis rue Perrel. Pinned to a simple clothesline, the thin mask drifts freely in the wind. The lack of context tugs at the curiosity of passersby, coaxing them into the gallery.
Inside, Cai’s paintings can feel similarly puzzling at first: a snake charmer doing her best impression of Medusa, semi-flaccid candles that wind around arms and poles, and apples that call to mind both Snow White and the Book of Genesis. Stylistic influence from past greats, such as Henri Rousseau, Salvador Dali, and René Magritte, abound his paintings.
By appropriating classic masterpieces and adding his own contemporary context, Cai tinges his paintings with a sense of playful mischief. These appropriations can at times feel irreverent, offensive even, but Cai’s aim isn’t to offend. “I have the utmost respect for classic art,” he says. “Though it’s sometimes thought that following too closely in the footsteps of past greats may be creatively impeding.”
Henri Rousseau’s The Wedding Party, for example, has directly inspired several of Cai’s works in the new show. In Rousseau’s 1905 painting, the bride—in a white wedding dress—stands in the center of the composition. The wedding dress, set against the all-black attire of the accompanying guests and saturated colors, seems afloat. Cai was fascinated by this ethereality and wanted to convey a similar sense of weightlessness in his works. The Breeze series—in which suspended sheet masks are shown in similarly airy fashion—was the resulting work.
The black dog in the foreground of The Wedding Party was also another creative catalyst. In Cai’s Confusion at Midnight, he swaps the dog for a black feline, and rather than resting on a grassy lawn, the cat is perched atop a ghost’s head. “The cat was drawn as dark as possible,” he says. “I wanted the ghost to be overwhelmed as if he was suffocating.”
漂浮的面膜最初的灵感来源于亨利∙卢梭的作品《The Wedding Party》，细致而沉郁的色调加之以深色着装的人群，衬出了新娘齐地长的白色婚纱，像是幽灵般悬浮在空中。蔡泽滨想到了画一个面膜在树林的树枝上，去营造一种“特别轻盈和随风飘浮的感觉”，就此产生了《微风》系列。而原作中黑狗与白婚纱的对比，又让他感受到另一种冲撞感，“我打算把黑色部分画成一只黑猫。把猫画的特别重，把轻浮的幽灵压的透不过气。”于是，《午夜困惑》诞生了。
Cai references common visual motifs of classic art throughout his new exhibition. Snakes, apples, candles appear again and again, though they’re often infused with contemporary context. In Snake Charmer #3, the woman is overjoyed by the coils of snakes draped atop her head, a reference to the mythological Medusa. But the red snake is drawn in the likeness of the Gucci cobra while the blue snake is drawn in the form of the Alfa-Romero’s logo; through these symbols, Cai pays a tongue-in-cheek tribute to modern consumerist culture.
蔡泽滨会回归绘画本身的一些东西，那些在经典作品中反复出现的意象：蛇、苹果、蜡烛，他不断尝试驾驭这些“通俗题材”，然后参考并融合了现代的视觉元素。比如“耍蛇人”系列中的第三幅作品，扭曲的蛇替代了飞舞的发丝，盘踞在一人笑到夸张的头顶上，它对神话作品中美杜莎形象进行了重释，也加入了当代生活中时装品牌元素——红蛇源自古驰的蛇纹图像，而蓝蛇则来自 Alfa-Romero 的标志。通过这些符号，蔡泽滨向现代消费主义文化传达了自己独特的敬意。
Classic art may be a defining aspect of Cai’s work, but his appropriations also transform ordinary objects into the extraordinary From an apple lit by candlelight to painter palettes as faces, his art elevates the mundane into brow-raising visuals. “Painting is an unhurried language, and a little humor can reshape it in surprising ways,” he says.
Looking at the facial masks that appear in Cai’s exhibition again, they actually don’t seem all that spectacular. It’s just an ordinary object bobbing about in the wind. Yet strangely enough, under Cai’s brush, they become something quite memorable.
Cai Zebin: A Revisit at 2 bis rue Perrel
May 12, 2020 ~ July 11, 2020
1st Floor, Building 16, Anfu Lu 275
2020 年 5 月 12 日至 2020 年 7 月 11 日
安福路 275 弄 16 号 1 楼