Ode to creativity
Updated: 2015-06-18

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Cinematographer Christopher Doyle and painter Zhang Enli get together to showcase their artworks, Zhang Kun reports in Shanghai.

As a cinematographer, Christopher Doyle has shot many films in Shanghai, and now he pays his compliments to the city through a joint exhibition with contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Enli.

The show, Nobody Knows Where, was unveiled at Aurora Museum on June 9, and features video works by Doyle and a few paintings and installations by Shanghai resident Zhang.

One of Doyle's video pieces on exhibition is played in the evenings on a large outdoor screen at Aurora in the city's Pudong area, drawing many passersby to stand and watch.

In this video, British actress Tilda Swinton is seen strolling through downtown Shanghai, and her movements are captured in light and shadow by Doyle.

"I knew Du Kefeng (Doyle's Chinese name) in Taiwan 38 years ago, when he was my English teacher," says Chang Lin-sheng, director of Aurora Museum.

The museum is a private establishment spread across five floors in a high-rise building in Shanghai's financial center.

Doyle, a 63-year-old Australian, has shot more than 70 films and has worked closely with renowned Chinese directors.

He has won awards at Cannes, Venice and other film festivals, including in China. His career highlights include working with celebrated Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-wai from the '80s to 2004.

He is fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and French.

"People are familiar with the dreamy, fantastic visual expressions of Doyle through his films. Now his art is captured in an space created by Zhang Enli," Chang says.

Art curators Davide Quadrio and Shaway Yeh brought Zhang on board to present the joint show.

Quadrio, from Italy, has been active in Shanghai's contemporary art scene for more than a decade. He has worked at Aurora Museum since its opening in 2013.

Quadrio thought Doyle needed a partner to present an exhibition of his artwork, which consists of videos and a paper collage. He chose Zhang because of the artist's emphasis on the concept of space.

Zhang, 50, is widely exhibited internationally. His painting subjects are items of daily use, such as an empty bucket and a piece of tiled floor.

"The subject is often unimportant," the artist says about his paintings. "It's the background and composition that matters."

Zhang turned the entire hall on the second floor of the museum building into the show's main display area, where walls made from cardboard boxes enclose dozens of screens of varying sizes that play the videos by Doyle.

Zhang has created a framework for his videos, according to Doyle.

Both artists are mature and have distinctive styles of their own, Yeh, the curator, says. "You might think you know about their art, but you will find the exhibition quite different from your perception."

Zhang hopes that collaborating with Doyle and the curators will be artistically fulfilling, he says.

"I want to establish colorful and variable connections and interactions, rather than mixing and combining different things together to become one."

Zhang is reticent when compared with Doyle's outgoing personality. Being a painter, Zhang spends most of his time working by himself, while in Doyle's line of work, there are always groups of people with whom he needs to interact daily.

When the two first met, Doyle visited Zhang at his studio, and he was surprised at how neat the place was, as well as his taste in fine cigars and wines. It was quite different from the workspace where Doyle created his collage on paper, Doyle says during a media event for the exhibition. He says Zhang's ways of dealing with space as an art subject impressed him.

Cutting pictures off magazines to make the paper collage was a leisure activity for Doyle during his busy filming schedules, he adds.

For one of his exhibition videos, Doyle shot Shanghai landmarks such as the City God temple.

Most of his video pieces - made through different periods of his career - include digitally processed landscapes of China, Australia and other places he has lived, as well as scenes from movies he shot.

Quadrio says he hopes the Shanghai exhibition is a starting point. He would like to take the show to other cities in the future.

IF YOU GO

10 am-5 pm, Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday-Sunday; 10 am-9 pm, Friday; through Aug 30. Aurora Museum, 99 Fucheng Road, Lujiazui, Pudong New Area, Shanghai. 021-5840-8899.
 

Copyright © 2014 Shanghai Municipal Education Commission. All rights reserved.