Shi Shaoping metamorphosis arts exhibition

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The RCA showcased Shia’s first European exhibition last month between the 13th – 18th October 2010 inclusive. Shiâ’s 40 art exhibits occupied more than 500 square metres in this prestigious venue. Paintings ranged in size from about a foot square to over five metres in length and for this reason, three rooms including one boasting an overhead gallery were needed to accommodate them. Shia chose the theme of metamorphosis for this exhibition.

Metamorphosis is a biological process whereby an organism /animal/ what have you undergoes distinct physical changes from hatchling through to adulthood. It can also refer to changing from one state of being to another. This theme is not immediately obvious upon seeing Shiâ’s works but what became clearer after viewing a number of pieces is that they are all linked.

Shiâ’s use of tadpoles and frogs at various stages of maturity illustrated the cycle from birth to adulthood. However in at least half of the paintings curious figures of sea squid and possibly octopus emerge and merge, curiously from the lower torsos of the frogs. It is at once difficult and fascinating to decipher exactly what’s going on.

His brush colours of greens, brown, reds and navy with all due respects embrace the murkier end of their colour range, what some artists studying colour ˜families might call calm. But any tranquillity is diluted by the physical contortion taken on by some of his subjects. Heads popping out of legs, bulbous eyes appearing anywhere but where they should be. One painting in appeared to be a giant octopus atop the lower part of what could be two frogs but even this was an assumption based on the numerous amphibians appearing in other paintings.


Shi’s landscape is one of chaos and confusion with creatures competing with each other for space. Only in a few exhibits are any two forms aligned together in harmony. It certainly causes one to question what echange may involve. Turbulence perhaps? 

Through Shi’s interpreter I learned that his childhood experiences and growing up in a rapidly changing China provided the inspiration for this series. With his PR team he will be visiting Paris next to continue promoting his works thereafter returning to Shanghai to his converted studio within a church complex. 

On a lighter note the one hundred plus visitors to the exhibition appeared delighted by what they saw. With occupations that ranged from journalists to bloggers to curious Joe Publics their banter showed Shiâ’s darlings were provoking much thought. 

This was a lovely evening culminating in a toast to Shi at an exclusive pub a few minutes walk from the venue where we all raised a glass of Tattinger to Shiâ’s future endeavours. 


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