3/F, 27 HUQIU ROAD, HUANGPU DISTRICT
Nocturnal Ballads revolves around themes from Romantic literature, poetic forest imagery, the elusiveness of dreams, and nocturnal tales. Despite their diverse conceptual backgrounds, the works share a lyrical, Romantic approach, echoing ancient stories, myths, and legends that flourish in the liminal and mysterious space of night. Dissolving the boundary between fantasy and reality, these contemporary stories carve their paths through the dark woods of the imagination.
…The sounding cataract. Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock, the mountain and the deep and gloomy wood, their colors and their forms were then to me. An appetite; a feeling and a love,...
The exhibition title Nocturnal Ballads is inspired by the lyrical ballad, a literary form that flourished in the Romantic era. In the late 18th century, the Lake poets (William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey) produced the renowned poetry collection Lyrical Ballads, shifting their focus from the external actions of people to individual expression and emotional sincerity. They altered the language of ballads by avoiding complex vocabulary, including vernacular and folklore elements to elicit an emotional reaction. Entering the exhibition space, the visitors are surrounded by contrasting depictions of nature and mysterious forests. This immersive experience plunges them into mystical realms and different states of mind in a somber scenery where dreams become tangible.
In folklore, myths, fairy tales, and even Shakespeare’s plays, forests are often depicted as places of wonder where strange and mysterious events occur. Forests can evoke fear and uncertainty or bring about a reversal of fortune. Wandering through enchanted woods is always a transformative experience but inherently unpredictable. In psychoanalysis, woods may symbolize the unconscious mind, concealing hidden dreams, fears, and memories. The journey through the forest is thus a voyage of self-discovery and an exploration of thoughts and emotions.
The exhibition features metaphorical, poetic, and conceptual works that tell profound visual stories, traversing the gallery space like ivy enveloping an ancient stone house. Laurent Grasso’s mysterious woods are inhabited by supernatural phenomena: flying lights and clouds appear amidst the trees or in the middle of a road, obstructing the path and captivating onlookers. Gregor Hildebrandt has created a different forest. The minimalist sculptures of Wo Du mich liebst beginnt der Wald (Where You Love Me the Forest Begins) are like trees, made of vinyl records that serve as vessels for a romantic song recorded on them. Farhad Moshiri’s winter forest comprises thousands of black and white glass beads, rendering the sparkling white silence of frozen nature.
Fu Rao captures poetic landscapes with Romantic flair, incorporating whimsical and dramatic elements. The expressive vastness of Zhao Yang's landscape is imbued with a powerful energy, tree branches twisting and merging into human form, evoking memories of ancient tales in which trees come to life at midnight. Under the cover of night, a world of fleeting dreams and contemplation opens before us. Meng Yangyang’s Midnight Story and Christiane Pooley’s Sueño recurrente (Recurring Dream) explore this nocturnal hour filled with childhood reminiscences of bedtime tales, introspection, flickering lights, and unspoken emotions.
When the conscious mind rests, the subconscious drifts into the realm of dreams, where the laws of reality no longer apply. These surreal dreamscapes and fluid narratives become a wellspring for the creative imagination. At the crossroads of dreams and the human psyche, in the fleeting moment between wakefulness and sleep, peculiar ideas and uncanny visions suddenly emerge, evoking unsettling experiences that have fueled myths, legends, and artistic imagery throughout history.
Nocturnal Ballads showcases works that defy the logic of the daylight world, exploring images, emotions, and things that are difficult to articulate in the language of reality. Chiho Aoshima, Fu Rao, Klara Kristalova, and Mark Ryden present enigmatic creatures that seem to come straight out of legends and myths, their eyes filled with mysterious stories. Crafted in the style of the old masters, Chang YaChin’s still lifes portray ordinary objects from everyday life with a clever sense of humor and poignant imagination.
The artists weave personal stories into the collective imagination and contemporary folklore. Their visual narratives portray nature’s grandeur, mystical forests, and eerie spaces inhabited by cryptic creatures and fantasies, evoking memories of fairy tales. But caution is advised: the dancing lights may bewitch travelers, leading them forever astray in the forest’s dark shadows.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep…