For the 2022 edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, de Sarthe is pleased to present Utopian Reality, featuring works by contemporary artists Mak2, Zhong Wei, and Lin Jingjing. The exhibition showcases a series of imagined spaces that speculate alternative paradigms beyond the existing boundaries of physical reality.
Living in an accelerating era, the desperation for escape has developed universal resonance. The featured artists offer three different approaches to contemporary escapism, all of which cater to humanity’s determined refusal to accept reality as is. Through manipulating the narratives of reality, the selection of artworks reveals parallel dimensions untethered by the anchors of real life– a utopia in which our need for more can be satiated.
Conceptual artist Mak2’s artworks are always bound by the dualism of humour and intense inquisitiveness. Her iconic series Home Sweet Home (2019-) explores both the idyllic and traumatic aspects of life in contemporary cities. It is a series of triptychs on canvas composed using the popular American life simulation videogame “The Sims”, and each panel of an artwork is painted by a separate painter found on the Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao.
“The Sims” is often used as a form of escapism as it grants players absolute power to control and alter their surroundings, allowing one to live out their own customized fantasy without the obstacles of reality. However, as these virtual fantasies are materialized via paint and brush, the final outcome becomes unpredictable due to the painters’ inconsistent skill levels, techniques, and use of materials. By enabling external factors to intervene in the process of actualization, Mak2 elucidates the inevitable disparity between reality and fantasy. Upon the invasion of foreign factors into one’s personal realm, the illusion of utopia is instantly shattered.
Zhong Wei’s works on canvas are windows into contemporary culture’s most dominating technological accomplishment: The Internet. Having compiled a massive database of memes and imagery found online, Zhong Wei uses these ubiquitous images as raw material for his work and constructs fleeting snapshots of this rapidly evolving matrix. Fundamental to Zhong Wei’s practice is a concept he refers to as “coupling”. It is the idea that the endless flow of information on the Internet generates random pairings, each catalyzing innumerable more possibilities. For many, the unpredictable nature of the online universe acts as an escape hatch from the monotony of real life. As the rabbit hole deepens with each click, the Internet becomes an entire alternate world parallel to physical reality – a boundless dimension in which one is free to be who they want, unshackled by the chains of real life.
Lin Jingjing’s titular series Utopian Reality consists of acrylic, print, and silk thread on canvas works. Drawing inspiration from the ongoing discussions surrounding extraterrestrial phenomena, Lin Jingjing’s new series depicts giant spaceships invading familiar cityscapes. The composition of each work is partitioned by bold, black lines, as if the viewer was looking into the distance through a window. Contrary to the historically negative connotations of “alien invasion”, Lin Jingjing’s vivid use of colour and contrast within each work carries overtones of hope and optimism. Vaguely recalling religious imagery, vibrant arrays of light radiate from the entities above, searching for life on the ground. As humanity is whisked away into the unknown, Lin Jingjing’s Utopian Reality suggests that perhaps it is to a better place.