FORMAT/Lishui Award 2021

FORMAT Lishui Award will be exhibited in Extra Gallery Spaces later in 2023 exhibition season.

From That Day On 

Curated by Jodi Kwok and Emily Jones  

Each of us has a story that starts from “that day.” For Ren Lingfei, From That Day On is a long-term project presenting her memories and experiences that are multi-threaded and interweaved. The images metaphorically and candidly reflect Ren’s responses to family, love, changes in the social environment and world events. Ren discusses the definition of “home” and people’s psychological conditions affected by identity, family, social construction, and urban life. The effect can be individual or collective and can be temporary or consecutive.  Since the outbreak of the pandemic, most people’s lives have gone through a drastic change. Some people’s attitude towards life and their perception of the world have completely shifted. Isolation is composed of 15 grids respectively named Fragment 1-15. By separating, glueing, and overlapping images of empty spaces and close-up inanimate objects, Ren reflects her emotional projection of life in the epidemic — loneliness, depression, disappointment, anxiety, and loss. This sense of isolation not only comes from the destruction of normal daily routines by home isolation but also comes from the individual’s powerlessness and anxiety in the face of uncertainty.  After the pandemic, people seem to have become accustomed to adopting virtual communications for all kinds of social interactions. In Picnic on the Grass, the people presented in the work reside in the same time and space. However, each person’s face, hands, and belongings require more intimate interaction. Those images are replaced by mirrors and the cut-outs are displayed separately in Picnic on Zoom. These fragmented and self-contained planes reflect the metaphors of virtual communications we utilize every day. 

During the pandemic, home has become one of the places where people stay for the longest time. Rooms consist of photo sculptures — multi-layered sheets of acrylic with photographic collages on them — that depict rooms in residential rental buildings in New York City. The project investigates the economics and architecture of rental apartments. It reflects upon the housing dilemmas of recent transplants to the metropolis: the nomadic lifestyle with frequent relocations and the temporality of “home.” Each sculpture consists of 15 to 20 layers of plastic with multiple photographic elements depicting domestic items. Together the layers in one collage represent a singular room but it is one that is furnished with objects from multiple identically shaped rooms that are stacked up vertically in the same apartment building. By doing so, spaces are compressed and unfolded in which illusive depth and real depth exist at the same time. Working from Home shows the change and adaptation of people’s expectations and understanding of “home” after turning parts of a home into workspaces. Ren invited friends to take photos of the work areas in their homes and send them to her. Then she composed a new room with images from each photo. The final result is a close-up of a familiar yet strange indoor environment. 

Ren also projects her emotions towards family and intimacy onto her work. She creates a number of images that are related to her mother’s unexpected departure. In Under Renovation, it is an empty room under a suspended renovation that carries the artist’s memory of living with her mother but has become vacant for a long time. The state of the room and the entire old house has stagnated at its own moment. Ren adds old family photos onto the plane image of the room, bringing family members together in this stagnant time and space. 

Mountains, Trees, In-Between consists of three parts: an image of the artist’s grandmother sitting under a hundred-year-old tree at her nursing home; a few last pictures taken by the artist’s mother at a ruined temple tangled with trees; and several images taken by the artist during her therapeutic trip to Seda, a Buddhist holy mountain area in Sichuan, China. During the trip, she learnt that local residents believed in the celestial burial, in which the loved one’s body is placed on a mountaintop: While the soul ascends to the sky, the body is given to the vultures, and eventually, returns to earth and nurtures the trees. Mountains and trees have become the sentimental bond between the artist and the two generations, resting her griefs and longings. 

 The exhibition From That Day On by Ren Lingfei, curated by Jodi Kwok and Emily Jones was awarded the Lishui/FORMAT Award 2021, selected by Louise Fedotov-Clements and Nimah Treacy is part of FORMAT’s ongoing partnership with the Lishui International Photography Festival, China, with thanks to Wang Peiquan and Isabella Xueke Wang.