AISHAN YU, 1=0.999999999999999… (1), 2017pencil and acrylic on card, 55 × 43 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lychee One gallery.

1=0.999999999999999. . .

Aishan Yu

Lychee One
China UK

“The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.” Wrote Susan Sontag in On Photography (1977), “That is, the identification of the subject of a photograph always dominates our perception of it—as it does not, necessarily, in a painting.”

It would be wrong to describe the meticulous drawings comprising most pieces in Aishan Yu’s “1=0.999999999999999. . .“ as hyperrealistic. In black and white, and with an air of deliberate composition, photorealistic is the more appropriate term, and with it arises Sontag’s need to identify the subject. The ability to draw with absolute precision has never been the sole metric of good art. When presented without any deeper consideration, it represents, at best, masterfully practiced craft. The true artistic value in Yu’s work comes from her tendency to extend beyond the frame of her drawings, departing from photorealism to suggest subjects to us, allowing new and unexpected perceptions to predominate.

A repeated motif in the exhibition is an image of a comb held beneath a gently running tap, appearing in the form of an oil painting on canvas in Translation 1 (2017) and a combination of pencil and acrylic on card in the eponymous 1=0.999999999999999. . . (1) (2017). In our Sontagian struggle to identify the subject, there are several places we might settle here: the hand and comb suggest all manner of physicality, and the faucet above them likewise has substance, utility and form worthy of focus. With the canvas, we do not see beyond the black background against which these objects are set. On card, however, where the image is laterally inverted, a white margin surrounds it on all sides, with the subject appearing in clumsy blue line descending into the whiteness from a smudge of pencil. This streak of color, as an abstraction of the stream of water issuing from the tap in the central image, does more to suggest a real, living subject than the most intricate drawing could. In the tradition of so much good art, it intimates the essence of a thing without making it explicitly visible.

Installation view of AISHAN YU’s “1=0.999999999999999. . .“ at Lychee One, London, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Lychee One gallery.

Yu achieves an impressive degree of physicality in this way. Next to the two drawings of marbles lined up in the grooves of a ruler in The Unkind (2017) are two differently sized circles of roughly applied dark green paint, which evoke both the substance and essence of the images’ flattened spheres with curious palpability.

In other works, Yu’s comingling of exacting draughtsmanship and knowing applications of simple but vivifying color propose subjects that are further removed from what is immediately visible. The drawing in Two Ripples (2017) shows intersecting sets of concentric undulations on dark water, but neither of them are represented in the white card margins. Instead, several strokes of watery, dark green paint evoke the waving form of a piece of seaweed. Somewhere between the detailed drawing and the unsophisticated painting is suggested color, movement, depth and even the processes of organic life. In 1=0.999999999999999. . . (4) (2017), in which a hand gestures at a series of ping pong balls implicitly rolling on a wooden surface and rebounding uniformly from a white wall, the artist does not capture any physical subject, but rather the concept of movement and the forces that influence it. In a wide margin to the left of the central image a kinked line of green pastel describes the motion of the balls, implying with simplicity the complex mechanics that influence it.

Yu came close to creating similarly suggestive effects by other means. Two Lines (2017), an installation of two bent neon lamps, recalls the effect she achieves with paint in other pieces and holds the same apparent simplicity, but has no referent with which to attain a comparable complexity of meaning. Elsewhere, Right Angle (2017), an installation of black and white vintage Japanese cloth hanging in a strip from the wall lacks any index from which a statement can be derived. As with some other, more conventionally self-contained abstract landscapes in the exhibition, these works mark the beginnings of potentially fruitful experiments, but it is on card, between the uncomplicated painting and sophisticated drawing, that the artist truly dominates our perception.

AISHAN YU, Two Lines, 2017, neon lamp, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Lychee One gallery.

AISHAN YUTwo Ripples, 2017, pencil and ink on card, 57 × 37 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lychee One gallery.

AISHAN YU, Right Angle, 2017, Japanese vintage fabric, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Lychee One gallery.

Aishan Yu’s “1=0.999999999999999. . .  is on show at Lychee One, London, until August 3, 2017.

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