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Spencer Finch

New York-based artist Spencer Finch is holding his first China solo exhibition "Forever is composed of Nows" at Lisson Gallery Shanghai through October 28.

The exhibition features new and recent work including an LED light installation, a series of pastel on paper works, watercolour drawings, and Pantone color matching swatches with pencil on paper. Each work is a conceptually condensed chronicle of a journey or experience, often an interaction between the artist and nature – from a study of the opacity and translucency of a cloud, to the tracing of a bee's flight pattern as it pollinates flowers in a garden.

The title, "Forever is Composed of Nows," originates from a poetry by Emily Dickinson. It suggests that while each artwork in the exhibition captures a specific moment or event, together, they form a complete and panoptic whole. Each artwork shows Finch's unique experiments, where he challenges himself to capture intangible temporal and sensory experiences using everyday materials and tools.

Taking inspiration from Monet's tradition of cultivating a garden specifically for painting purposes, Finch's "Following a Bee" (2021) is a collection of drawings centered on a large group of zinnia flowers planted by the artist from seeds. Perched on a ladder above the flowers, he closely monitored the flight pattern of each bee as they cross-pollinated the zinnias, creating a line in acetate that represents their journeys. Finch then selected one of each of the zinnia varieties and matched their colors using pastels.

The LED work on display, "Reciting Poetry at the Greening of Spring" (2023), was created after his recent visit to The Getty Center in Los Angeles, where he observed Chinese painter Wu Li's hanging scroll, "Reciting Poetry before the Yellowing of Autumn" (1674).

Motivated by this, Finch recited two poems to the trees in Prospect Park, Brooklyn – Emily Dickinson's "A Little Madness in the Spring" and E.E. Cummings' "O sweet spontaneous." Inspired by J. M. W. Turner's mastery of light and atmosphere, Finch translated the hues he observed into a series of LED tubes filtered with bands of color.

Similarly, in "Cloud (cumulus, Glacier National Park)" (2023), Finch studied the opacity and translucency of a cloud and used 3M magic tape to capture the subtle changes in cloud formation, creating a poetic alternative to the hypnotic experience of gazing into the sky.

The exhibition also features two watercolour drawings, "Pacific Ocean Laguna Beach, LA 7/27/14" (2015) and "Atlantic Ocean from Isle au Haut" (2017), from an ongoing series based on observations of various bodies of water at different times of day, translating the immense, vast forces of nature into delicate, graceful lines.

Alongside this are three works from the series titled, "Study for Ulysses (Coney Island)" (2023), named after James Joyce's novel, which document a day of wandering through a series of fleeting color sensations. From morning to night, Finch extracted and abstracted colors from his environment using the commercial colour-matching system Pantone.

Arranged in the gallery, these works echo not only the artist's physical movements throughout the day, but also the journey of his mind – the shifts in hue and tone mirroring each new interruption or encounter in consciousness.

Exhibition info:

Date: October 28, 11am-6pm

Venue: Lisson Gallery

Address: 2/F, 27 Huqiu Rd


Written by Tan Weiyun

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