Saturday, December 1, 2007

He Yunchang The Rock Touring Around Great Britain

Chambers Fine Art, Chelsea, November 8th-December 22nd.

He Yunchang has done some really rotten things to himself over the years. Recently he has embedded himself in a concrete block for 24 hours, and stared into 10,000 watts of electric light for sixty minutes. Not so recently he has suspended himself upside-down over a river, "trying" to divide it with a knife. Once he "tried" to move a mountain by pulling on a string he had tied around it. So it was nice to see an exhibit from an artist who usually sets himself up for pain and failure doing something somewhat manageable.

The exhibit at Chambers Fine Art, The Rock Touring Around Great Britain, is surprisingly a series of oil paintings. Each painting depicts He Yunchang, rock in hand, as he walks, sometimes running, over the English countryside from September 23, 2006 to June 14th, 2007. The myth that I like to believe is that He Yunchang picked up his rock in Boulmer and then carried it counterclockwise until he was able to return the rock to the exact location he picked it up in.

The effect the oil paintings have on the viewer is pretty magical because they aren't anything special. These paintings, they could have been created by Bob Ross, but there is a life in them because they record an event. Perhaps somewhat dorkily I am reminded of the childlike empress in the movie The Neverending Story telling Atreyu that the child from the real world has traveled with him the whole time. In a similar way,so have I, travelled with He Yunchang, as he picked up a rock and felt the sun in his face, or the wind, or the rain, I was there.

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