Thursday, September 23, 2010
Gordon Cheung: The Sleeper Awakes, Other Gallery, Shanghai
curated by Raul Zamudio
The Sleeper Awakes is a solo exhibition of paintings, sculptures, and animation works by London-based artist Gordon Cheung. The exhibition’s title is culled from H.G. Wells’ similarly titled science fiction story published in 1910. The plot revolves around a man named Graham who falls into a catatonic sleep in London in 1897 and awakes 203 years later.
Cheung uses Wells’ tale as narrative touchstone to address conditions of contemporary globalization. But it is not only the content of Cheung’s artworks that engage this but the artist’s formal strategies as well. In the story, Graham becomes a wealthy man through compound interest in his bank account that has accrued for over two centuries. Mega-wealth is alluded to in Cheung’s riveting 10 portrait piece titled Top Ten Billionaires, 2008 (2009). The portraits include Bill Gates, William Buffet and 8 others whose likenesses are painted on stock listings. The stock listings are an index of contemporary global economic trading and potential abuse of unregulated financial markets, but Cheung has also painted other imagery on them that symbolizes the unreal world that Graham has awoken to: the Minotaur and the dragon. Both of these mythological creatures reflect polarities in respectively representing the West and the East. They are two cosmic archetypes symbolically engaged in contemporary geopolitical rivalry between Europe/the U.S., and Asia.
There will also be exhibited a series of paintings of animals as trophies that comment on nature as commodity. H.G. Wells’ story is dystopian, and Cheung’s sculptures constituted from mirrors, florescent lights, and cast animal skulls bespeak of environmental cataclysm from technology gone amok. Rounding out the exhibition is a series of animated video works titled The Four Riders (2009). The Four Riders are analogues to the apocalyptic Four Horsemen envisioned by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation. Like the Biblical horsemen who are divine harbingers of pestilence, death and destruction on earth’s final days, The Four Riders hint to this as well: each animation consists of a bull-riding cowboy endlessly riding in a circle as the Doors’ The End is faintly heard in the background. This iconic song was also used by Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse Now.