Bubbles in the Office

Shu Yong


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90 x 160 cm
Shu Yong is one of China’s best-known multi-disciplinary artists. He focuses his attention on a contemporary Chinese world that he sees as precariously balanced between the past and the present, distracted by the shiny baubles of consumerist desire and uneasily trying to come to terms with a difficult history. Shu Yong returns to the image of the bubble - beautiful, drifting, insubstantial forms that once pierced leave nothing at all behind - as symbols of Chinese society. Often his work has proved to be controversial, as in the series ‘Bubbles in the Office’. Over a period of years, he visited more than a hundred wealthy businessmen and entrepreneurs, the beneficiaries of the Chinese economic miracle focused on the factory towns of the Pearl River Delta, and photographed them seated in their places of business. He described the work as ‘blowing bubbles in the offices of billionaires’, an admittedly absurdist act that slyly exposes aspects of power and the culture of wealth exemplified by Deng Xiaoping’s (possibly apocryphal) phrase, ‘To get rich is glorious.’ Posed seriously in their well-appointed offices, generally with framed calligraphy or an ink painting behind them as a nod to Chinese tradition and history, or shelves bearing trophies, plaques and photographs as evidence of personal ambitions fulfilled, they gaze unsmiling at the camera without acknowledging the gaudy soap bubbles drifting through the air. These symbols of the transitory nature of wealth and power function like a memento mori in a seventeenth century ‘Vanitas’ painting, pointing to the inevitable: bubbles — whether those of personal pride, financial success, political influence, or those made of soapy liquid — will eventually burst.
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