JE Yeoran, LI Qing, Tatsuma TAKEDA, ZHANG XU Zhan
Be Water
Galerie EIGEN + ART Berlin

July 5 - Augsut 19, 2023

Immerse yourself in the various ways in which water is approached in Eastern and Western philosophies, and it becomes clear that this element is of vital importance to the collective perception of humankind. No wonder that artists from all eras and all parts of the world have always been drawn to the theme of water. It is the element from which our ancestors emerged millions of years ago and from which we still emerge today when we leave the womb. Like blood, it is a connecting thread that is the same for all human beings, regardless of their origin.

Everyone knows the saying „be water”, which in a transnational context is usually associated with the Chinese-American actor and martial artist Bruce Lee. It refers to the paradox inherent in water‘s ability to be both soft and strong, as defined by Lao Tzu (老子) more than 2,500 years before Lee: “Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is [a] paradox: what is soft is strong.”

For the exhibition Be Water, the gallery has brought together four artists from East Asia: Zhang Xu Zhan (Taiwan), Je Yeoran (Korea), Li Qing (China), and Tatsuma Takeda (Japan). They all work in different media and in different cultural contexts, which allows us to form a wide web of aesthetic and contentual interpretations around the idea of water as paradox.

Korean female artist Je Yeoran’s (*1960) abstract paintings have a unique, thick texture that results from the artist‘s use of a performative painting process, using a squeegee instead of a traditional brush to paint her canvases. The artist‘s delight in nature is reflected in the ecstatic physicality of the movement on the canvas, bursting forth in increasingly vivid sweeps of pure, vibrant colour and quasi-sculptural strokes that recall the Abstract Expressionists but engage the viewer with an emotional depth that recognises the universality of human experience. About her intentions in painting, she says: „I wish for my paintings to keep the dynamics of rise and fall in time.”

Je Yeoran‘s paintings have been collected by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (South Korea), the Seoul Museum of Art (South Korea), the Total Museum (South Korea), Space K Seoul (South Korea) and the Fondation Louis Vuitton (France), among others.

Born in 1988 into a paper-crafting family in Sinjhuang (Taipei), Taiwan, Zhang Xu Zhan has gained international acclaim for his intricate papier-mâché figures and haunting stop-motion films. Through the artist‘s expert use of hand-drawn animation, puppetry and digital imagery, we witness the seamless fusion of traditional and contemporary techniques. This synergy creates a visual language that transports us to a world that is at once apocalyptic and fairy-tale like. Zhang Xu Zhan‘s mastery of experimental film and multi-channel video installation further heightens our experience, enveloping us in a multi-sensory exploration of his compelling artistic universe.

Zhang Xu Zhan was Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year 2021. His work is also collected by Deutsche Bank and was recently exhibited at the Mori Museum in Tokyo. He has been selected and awarded with numerous prizes such as last year’s Golden Horse Award for Best Animated Short Film (Compound Eyes of Tropical), the Art Sanya - Huayu Youth Award (2016), the Made In Taiwan-Young Artist Discovery (2015), the 36th Golden Harvest Awards for Outstanding Short Films (2014) or the 7th Digital Art Awards Taipei (2013), etc.

Li Qing was born in 1981 in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province. He lives and works between Hangzhou and Shanghai. His paintings, installations and video works seek rational fissures in similarity and contradiction, acting on the viewer‘s perception and recognition through circuitous and overlapping structures. In recent years, his works have traced the historical fragmentation and ideological conflicts that have been prevalent in the dissemination of information, collective memory and the experience of knowledge. At the same time, his works test the tensions and contradictions between image, language, symbol and social space, connecting the multi-layered elements of experience in the form of series in order to construct a structure of conflict.

Li Qing‘s works are collected by the Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy, the Deutsche Bank, Germany, the Institut Valencia d‘Art Modern, Valencia, Spain, the Rubell Family Collection, Miami, the Kistefos Museum, Oslo, the Long Museum, Shanghai, the Yuz Museum, Shanghai, the Arario Museum, Seoul/Jeju, Korea, and the Square Gallery of Contemporary Art, Nanjing, China, among others.

Tatsuma Takeda was born in 1988 in Amakusa-gun, Kumamoto, Japan. He lives in Berlin and received his MA from the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts under Prof. Carsten Nicolai. Growing up in the Amakusa Islands, one of the regions associated with the „hidden“ Christians of Japan (Kakure Kirishitan), Takeda‘s background has sparked his interest in the movement and transformation of religions and cultures. From an anthropological perspective, he explores common languages and differences in today‘s diverse world, using various media such as painting, three-dimensional representation and installation to reinterpret the history of people and art.

Tatsuma Takeda has had solo exhibitions at the Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin, the Cité internationale des arts, Paris, and motomoto AIR, Kumamoto, Japan, among others, and has participated in numerous group exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Luzern, the Deutsch-Japanisches Zentrum Berlin, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan.