Exhibition Design
Wu Xiaohai
IOMA Culture Art Center

Wu Xiaohai: Intranquil Nature

“Wu Xiaohai: Intranquil Nature” is a solo exhibition organized by artist Xiaohai Wu at the IOMA Culture Art Center in March 2023. Xiaohai Wu was once named one of the “Top 10 Most Potential Artists of the Year” worldwide. This exhibition includes over 230 works of various artistic forms centered on nature. This is Xiaohai Wu's largest worldwide solo exhibition to date, consisting of his entire artwork collection. PILLS was invited to design the space for this exhibition, revealing a unique viewing path to visitors and presenting a familiar yet vibrant “Nature.”   Maze_ The Induction of Nature The first floor displays Xiaohai Wu's giant paintings and three-dimensional works created when he immersed himself in nature. The artist stepped into the outdoors. Stones, trees, grasslands, and many other objects were observed. He faithfully observed and reproduced natural objects with a horizontal or overhead gaze, and the image resembled the result of a “Human Machine” scanned and then spliced. The spatial design concept echoes the artist's creative approach of “Viewing” and “Nature” to restore the landscape based on the “Maze” in the exhibition hall. The design gives the audience an immersive experience of returning to nature by foot and evokes the connection between the body and the land. Sculptures are placed in various positions along the labyrinth path, with low walls separating the audience and creating a highly guided viewing experience. Here, the viewer and the artwork form a gaze relationship that revolves around them from far to near. At the same time, the design wraps and hides the structural columns with mirror materials, magnifying the visual infinity on limited land. Large oil paintings are displayed on the surrounding exhibition walls. The walls and ceiling are both black, and the linear light strips are arranged neatly above the space, creating a dark and mysterious atmosphere. The restrained lighting highlights the richness of the paintings and the liveliness of their colors. As the details unfold, the once daily and easily overlooked “Nature” is magnified and highlighted, showcasing a new appearance and vitality, inspiring people to reflect consciously, unconsciously, or subconsciously.   Horizon_ A Trap for Seeing  The second floor of the original exhibition hall has the characteristics and limitations of low height and complex structure. The spatial design continues the atmosphere of the first floor with mysterious colors, creating a “Horizon” with a glimmer of light in the darkness. The second-floor exhibition features 148 sketch diaries created by artists during the epidemic period, with a glazed and sloping cabinet placed along the wall to form a semi-enclosure. Visitors enter the space through a bright white corridor, and the artworks are displayed in the form of comics one by one, continuously unfolded in front of visitors. The “Horizon” seems to create a captivating deep space-time composed of images. The painting content is derived from the artist's intuitive and subjective application of specific objects, where natural objects and human images blend together, but without any meaningful narrative. The exhibition style with a strong sense of order attempts to guide people to explore the connections between the image content, or to interpret them through recognizable art history figures. Here, the misaligned expression of visual and spatial design forms a “Trap for Watching,” emphasizing the importance of the artist's perception of physiological “Viewing,” which raises doubts about the reliance on experiential and cultural “Viewing.”   Thick Wall _ A Winding Path, Framed Views The third-floor exhibition hall was originally a white box space with a wide view and ample natural lighting. This design features a main corridor as an exhibition space in an open interior like a “Thick Wall.” This “Wall” divides the space into two parts, an enclosed space inside and outside the corridor to meet the needs of various forms of exhibits while creating a fun “Viewing” experience. The three-dimensional artworks of different scales are placed on the exhibition niches at various heights inside the corridor. We have retained the temporary wall of the original exhibition on one side of the corridor, which not only weakens the interference of outdoor lighting in the exhibition, but also introduces soft natural lighting for the large sculptures on the same side. The design places windows along the winding corridor to create various framed and contrasting views. Visitors can enjoy the artworks placed in the enclosed space through the window openings on the wall, or look far into the sculptures in the opposite corridor. The wooden structure supporting the thick walls is exposed when entering the enclosed space surrounded by the corridor. The messy graffiti and text are mixed with three-dimensional artworks with classical texture, creating a rough and natural sense, seemingly chaotic but also creative. The “Thick Wall” restricts visitors' view through the wall, which poses a challenge to the traditional viewing path. The orderly organization of different landscapes increases the diversity of the viewing experience and encourages viewers to explore the exhibition in more innovative ways.   Veils _ Traces of Time Visitors can enter a separate mezzanine space on the third floor of the exhibition hall. The design uses a double-layer transparent cloth to cover the original French window. In this way, the natural lighting is effectively controlled, and the indoor lighting is softened. The tree branches outside the window are transformed into abstract tree shadows through the double-layer veils, so the natural objects have also become part of the exhibition. As time differs, the tree shadows above the veils will morphologically change with the sky. At the same time, one can also appreciate the rich and ever-changing tree shadows in different positions within the exhibition hall. The “Pregnant Mermaid” lies on its side in front of the window, and the tree shadows on the curtain wall become the visual guide in the space, attracting the audience to directly measure nature with their eyes and feel the power of life. Xiaohai Wu's artworks constructed a cluster of stars, jumping between time and space, wandering inside and outside the experience, thus containing infinite potential. The spatial design follows the context of his works, leading the audience to enjoy the essence of “Nature” while inspiring their thinking about the essence of “Viewing.” In the era of artificial intelligence, when digital methods may replace everything we urgently need, how can we rebuild the connection with nature? Starting from the body and being along with nature, is the answer presented in this space and artist's work.

Project Information Organizer: IOMA Culture Art Center Academic Support: Di'an Fan Curator: Zikang Zhang Producer: Lingxue Wang Exhibition Director: Fazhi Zhao Exhibition Design: Zigeng Wang Curatorial Assistant: Tianyi Sun Graphic Design: Lianlian Lian Exhibition Time: March 3, 2023 - April 16, 2023 Venue: IOMA Culture Art Center, Beijing Spatial Design: PILLS Principal Architect: Zigeng Wang Design Team: Manying Wang, Mingyuan Chen, Enica Deng Construction: Gaozhan Weiye (Beijing) Construction Engineering Co., Ltd.

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