Rear Windows 后窗,窗后

November 15, 2019 2019年11月15日

Outside the window, in Shanghai’s busiest shopping district, North Shaanxi Road buzzes with activity; but inside the sunlit salon, silence reigns over the ornate wooden staircase and artwork-covered walls. You’d almost think you’d stepped a century back in time to the age of Shanghai’s gilded splendor. Look closely, though, and a few incongruous details—paintings of modern cityscapes set inside a window frame; television screens flashing a single character at a time; and a KTV room playing a retro hit, its video oddly scrubbed of people—tip you off that you’re in an exhibition space.

This is Prada Rong Zhai, the site of artist Li Qing’s exhibition Rear Windows.

窗外是街,是全上海最繁华的商业地段,一条车水马龙的街;而窗内是静谧的木楼梯、洒满阳光的大房间和挂了满墙的画。你不会觉得这里是一个展厅,反而更像是步入了百十年前鎏金的上海岁月——但仔细看,旧窗框切割了油画的街景,电视机播放着单个的文字,小包厢里放映的怀旧金曲,MV 也被替换成了无人的空镜。

这里是 PRADA 荣宅,艺术家李青“后窗”的展览现场。

Li came up with the idea to use windows as a medium while searching for different ways to approach contemporary painting. He noticed that windows framed scenery much like a camera’s viewfinder, and on certain types of windows, glass panes divided up a scene into multiple compositions. By placing scenes inside of old window frames, they were imbued with an immersive realism.

As Li’s art evolved, the windows that appear in his work have taken on new meaning. In a way, they’re bearers of history. Not only do they evoke a sense of familiarity, the windows of a building can be also understood as a testament to the structure’s past and present.



This meditation on the past and the present is at the core of Li’s Tetris Windows, one of the most noteworthy series of the exhibition. Mounted within antique window frames, Li’s paintings center on the historic architecture of Shanghai. Unlike past works, select panes have been replaced with multimedia collages of text, photos, and other materials. These additions draw attention to the changes that each building has undergone over the years, hinting at a larger narrative of how a city’s growth can have a lasting impact on local culture and lifestyle. This idea of time and change is also evident in the paintings themselves, which depict the same scene at different times of the day. Certain sections radiate with the glow of the early-afternoon sun while other sections are drenched with the indigo hues of dusk. Through these ambitious concepts and approaches, Li’s windows have become more than just an aesthetic device—they offer unique glimpses into the artist’s worldview.

Rear Windows shares similarities with Hitchcock’s eponymous film in that they’re both designed to show only what the artist wants the audience to see. The exhibition, through jarring contrasts between old and new, is designed to influence viewer perception, Li says. In doing so, his work forges unlikely connections between windows, people, architecture, and city.



Tetris Window: Asiatic Society (2019) 212.5 x 106 x 10 cm / Wood, metal, plexiglass, oil colors, markers, clothes, printed matter, and aluminum plastic panel 《迷窗·亚洲文会》(2019) 212.5 x 106 x 10 cm / 木、金属、有机玻璃、油彩、马克笔、衣物、印刷品
Tetris Window: Ampere Foreign Firm (2019) 212.5 x 106 x 10 cm / Wood, metal, plexiglass, oil colors, markers, clothes, printed matter, aluminum plastic panel 《迷窗·安培洋行》(2019) 212.5 x 106 x 10 cm / 木、金属、有机玻璃、油彩、马克笔、衣物、印刷品
Tetris Window: OCT (2019) 212.5 x 106 x 10 cm / Wood, metal, plexiglass, oil colors, markers, clothes, printed matter, aluminum plastic panel 《迷窗·华侨城》(2019) 212.5 x 106 x 10 cm / 木、金属、有机玻璃、油彩、马克笔、衣物、印刷品
Tetris Window: Amber Building (2019) 212.5 x 106 x 10 cm / Wood, metal, plexiglass, oil colors, markers, clothes, printed matter, aluminum plastic panel 《迷窗·琥珀大楼》(2019) 212.5 x 106 x 10 cm / 木、金属、有机玻璃、油彩、马克笔、衣物、印刷品

Unlike typical galleries, with their sterile white walls, Rong Zhai feels lived in, a sensation that Li heightens in this show. In the ballroom, bedrooms, and music room, he places works that resonate with each space, inviting the viewer to question their relationship to the constantly changing world outside. A century-old colonial house converted to a nontraditional exhibition space or art gallery, says Li, “gives these works a fuller context, makes the art itself more diverse.”


Take, for example, the grand ballroom, which was once used to host formal events and extravagant parties. In a gesture of irony, Li chose the space to display Things You Can Take Away and Hangzhou House Series. The former is a collection of carpets designed in the likeness of floor tiles found in old Hangzhou housing. In it, Li plays with the contrast between the soft comfort of rugs and the harsh imagery of scuffed tiles covered in dirt. Per the artist’s intent, these carpets are completely overshadowed by the glitzy stained-glass skylight overhead.

For Hangzhou House Series, Li covers the ballroom’s windows with photos of buildings in the Hangzhou suburbs. These houses were built based on the locals’ ideas of modern luxury, but they’re a far cry from the palatial estate that these photos are now showcased in.



Hangzhou House No. 7 (2018) 《杭州房子 7》(2018)
Hangzhou House No. 11 (2018) 《杭州房子 11》(2018)

With the presence of different time periods and urban cultures, the coexistence and combination of different viewpoints and ideologies, a dialogue begins between past and present, and a relationship is established between people and the city. And this is precisely what Li hopes to show through Rear Windows. “Everything is you see here,” he says, “is part of the show.”


Tickets are available via the Prada Rong Zhai WeChat Mini Program.


Rear Windows

Nov. 7th 2019 ~ Jan. 19th 2020

Prada Rong Zhai
186 North Shaanxi Road
Jing’an District, Shanghai
People’s Republic of China



前往 PRADA 荣宅的微信小程序 即可购票。



2019 年 11 月 7 日 ~ 2020 年 1 月 19 日

陕西北路 186 号

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Contributor: Chen Yuan
Images Courtesy of Prada Rong Zhai

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供稿人: Chen Yuan
图片由 PRADA 荣宅 提供