Walking at the Invisible City
Source:Artintern Author:Guan Yuda Date: 2008-10-25 Size:
Shi Pi should be inspired by the daily feelings of his school time in the suburb of Guiyang where the cold and wild industrialized “view” could be found in every corner.


Shi Pi was one of the students of mine when I worked at the School of Art in Guizhou University. He was major in oil painting and I was mainly responsible for the courses about the history, so we didn’t often meet in class. It was in 1998 when Dong Zhong and I organized the “Sisyphus---Young Artists Nominated Exhibition” in Guiyang that Shi Pi was one of the exhibitors. Perhaps, from then on, he began to paint on the subject of a city, simply and sincerely, to express the depression of the youth through the waste and dilapidated city view, revealing his expressive feelings of the original region.

Guiyang grew up rapidly as a newly industrial city in southwest of China from the “construction of the third line” in 1960’s. Without the natural advantage of location like other Chinese big industrial cities such as Shenyang or Wuhan, Guiyang had its own plan of industrialization to make use of the unorderly plots among the outskirts of the cities in river valleys and hillside areas, restricted within the narrow flats of the mountainous region. The “city view”, mix by civilizations between agriculture and industry in confusion, seemed quite grotesque as the magic land created by surrealists.

Shi Pi should be inspired by the daily feelings of his school time in the suburb of Guiyang where the cold and wild industrialized “view” could be found in every corner. He came into the everlasting topic of puzzle by his own physical sensations to paint the “city” as the familiar and strange heterotopias by the symbolism quite straight. It’s more like existentialism that French author Albert Camus wrote in his famous < > and <> to focus on the universal difficulties of existence.

Generally, Shi Pi has three ways of symbolization, or metaphor, referred to a city. First is “home”. The houses, trees, cars and birds were painted out of perspective intentionally as the result of a miniature. Secondly, “empty city stratagem”, any part of a city was overlooked and recorded like the early urban documentaries. Last one is “sandbox” borrowed from real estate agency. The dilapidated houses and streets were arranged into a glass box in all seriousness, but the wit of black humor unveiled.

It was by the sad elegy in his paintings that we were distanced from the city we lived and used to be familiar with, and aroused our missing of “home” when we were not on the stage. In fact, a city is the place to hide the secret reason of our survival which accounts for us understanding in the real beginning. Italian author Italo Calvino said: “A city is a dream: all the imaginations will be found. But, even the most extraordinary dream is still a puzzle painted with desires, or, unreal and reversed fears under cover.”

The cities created by Shi Pi are the same, dilapidated and waste, to present his thought of the “city” that no matter how ugly or unfortunately our cities are, we still have the right of happiness. Maybe we will never reach it, but at least we are on our way there. A city consists in desires and fears, since they have been covered with each other by secret communication, ridiculous regulation and illusive proportion. His “city” is alive and able to think itself as the creature with idea and fortune, however, which can’t put up the walls. Our attention would rather give to a city’s answer to our question than its eight or eighty kinds of wonderful view. Or, what we are forced to face: “Searching for the hints of happiness able to see, measure how much it has been lost already. Be careful, darkness is going to show when the distant light comes over in a manner.” (Italo Calvino)---the artist questioned his “city” and the “city” is questioning us the same too.

[Editor] Mark Lee