There May Be No Pearls in this Shell: Shang Hai

22 August - 17 October 2020

The Russian poet Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam once wrote in ‘The Shell’, “Your murmuring foam will kiss / the walls of the fragile shell / with wind and rain and mist / like a heart where nothing dwells.” The shell is like a room, and a room is like a female's womb, which symbolizes the vast expanse of life, as well as mysteries and power that is unknown. The counteraction of a shell with the external object results in the formation of a new substance - pearl. Pearls are valued and treasured by people, perhaps because of the difficult and ambiguous process of nucleation.


Female figures and rooms are recurring themes in art. Rooms are full of metaphors, revealing the complex relationship between females and the outside world. Rooms also imply that females are trying their best to get rid of the constraints given to them by the external world. These constraints have not been weakened due to the progress of technology in new times, instead they appear interactively in new forms in a different time and space. The rise of social media has provided a brand-new space and setting for females to reflect on themselves. From the high-pitched ‘revolutionary wave’, to the ordinary, mundane and even secretive everyday life, the ways of realising one’s self-awareness have shifted for females.


At Leo Gallery, the two exhibition spaces are like two “rooms” with different time and texture, showing the softness and hardness of Cai Yaling and Xiao Hanqiu’s artworks with inspirations derived from their different life experiences. With their female perspective, the artists have summarised and sorted out the reality, the spiritual world and their personal histories in a logical way, based on their experience of vision and knowledge. The exhibition ‘There May Be No Pearls in this Shell’, which showcases these two artists, is not only a ‘subversion’ of the formalised female image, but also a re-examination of the diverse ways of female objectification, and also the gaze of the Other in the new historical context.


                                                                                                                                Curator: Ding Xiaojie