The 2019 edition of the Shanghai Urban Space Art Season (SUSAS) opened on 28 September unveiling seven site-specific commissioned public artworks along the Yangpu Riverside. SUSAS 2019 comprises two main exhibition sectors: “Planning & Architecture” and “Urban Space Art”, with the latter sector exhibiting 20 large-scale permanent site-specific installations and five open-submission artworks by internationally acclaimed artists, which will be unveiled in phases until the end of next year. The Shanghai Municipal Planning and Natural Resources Bureau, and the Yangpu District Planning and Natural Resources Bureau appointed Art Pioneer Studio, an international art consulting and management company founded by Chinese-Canadian Robin Wong, for the first time as the curatorial team and general contractor for SUSAS 2019.
This year’s SUSAS takes place within a 5.5-kilometer region of the Yangpu Riverside in the center of Shanghai. As a long-standing industrialized city, Huangpu River serves as a classical testament to the historical evolution of the Yangpu Riverside. A sight to behold, the exhibition venue spawns the past and the present of the river, which will also further extend the history of the river.
Among the 20 large-scale permanent site-specific installations, seven of them were unveiled in the first phase during the opening of SUSAS. These include commissioned works by established contemporary artists: Liu Jianhua (China), Esther Stocker (Italy), Yusuke Asai (Japan), Xu Zhen (China), Shen Lieyi (China), Richard Wilson (United Kingdom) and Felice Varini (Switzerland). The rest will be completed in the future.
‘Extraterrestrial Object’ by Chinese artist Liu Jianhua is a 20-meter long sculpture in florescent colour, inspired by the shape of raindrops to construct an abstract, silent and organic figure. Taking inspiration from the abstract aspect of nature, the work highlights an immediacy with nature, life and art.
‘Square Universe’ by Italian artist Esther Stocker provides an immersive experience, with viewers entering a square geometric universe while going through an arcade. Within this realm, black squares of various dimensions are composed to simultaneously trigger disruption and order, whereas the tension and relation between the two main elements represent a shift and an encounter between the known and the unknown.
Depicting various encounters between humans, nature, objects, history, the present and the future, ‘Wildness growing up in the city’ is an interactive drawing created by Japanese artist Yusuke Asai which imbues an exceptional vitality by encouraging public participation. The work employs materials with zebra-pattern white stripes, plants in the shape of flowers – a representation of moving animals – ultimately exploring the existence of nature in an urban setting.
Chinese artist Xu Zhen’s ‘Mountains’ consists of beard fragments sourced from the sculpted heads of ancient philosophers including Sophocles, Hercules, Socrates and Homer, which are reversed and enlarged by the artist’s acute dexterity. Emulating artificial Chinese rocks, the work appears as if a natural landscape was transposed to an indoor setting. The missing part of the works prompts endless potential for the viewers to apply their own imagination into the negative spaces.
‘Irresolute’ by Chinese artist Shen Lieyi is a massive vacant chair made with stainless steel and black granite that evokes lost memories under the moonlight, leaving traces on the river like a mirror. With the adjacent river permanently enwrapping the scenery, an individual not only encounters a cultural experience but also discovers an interaction with the self and the others.
For British artist Richard Wilson’s ‘Huangpu Hold’, a total of 42 ship parts were taken from an abandoned wreck that sat in Yangpu Riverside’s shipyard and were then re-attached to the ends of 21 steel pipes. The 3m x 3m x 5m installation underscores the value of a formerly discarded industrial object from the river, which can be reinvigorated, serving as a reminder of the river’s resonating history.
‘Set of diagonals for cranes’ by Swiss artist Felice Varini is made up of geometric patterns painted on a set of three orange cranes, striving to bestow new life on these discarded objects. The work creates visual illusions and viewers will only see a perfect pattern at a specific spot. “My specialty lies in architectural space and everything that constitutes such space. These spaces are and remain the original media for my painting. I work "on site" each time in a different space and my work develops itself in relation to the spaces I encounter”, says Varini.