Shangkai Kevin Yu. Hot Tub Reflections

9 Mar 2024 – 14 Apr 2024

Regular hours

13:00 – 18:00
13:00 – 18:00
13:00 – 18:00
13:00 – 18:00

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Future Gallery

Berlin, Germany

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Future Gallery is proud to present Hot Tub Reflections an exhibition of new and recent work by Taiwanese artist Shangkai Kevin Yu. This marks Yu’s second solo presentation at the gallery.


We could see the rise of generative AI and computer modeling as a visual artist’s existential threat, but those who maintain an enduring belief in the undimmable power of painting simply embrace these new digital technologies as another tool to be used in the service of painting, or as a new form of painting, altogether. This is the case for the artist Shangkai Kevin Yu, whose exhibition, Hot Tub Reflections, presents both paintings and digital prints (not to be mistaken for photographs) of objects posed in eerily familiar yet ultimately unplaceable spaces, where narratives play out under the radar of definitive storylines.

In a recent conversation over FaceTime, Yu points out to me that in so much computer-generated imagery, “what’s missing… is the incidentals.” In a 3-D rendering program like Blender, which Yu has used as a tool in developing this most recent body of work, the surfaces are too clean, and the light shines with an uncanny precision. At first glance, seen as a 2.5-inch square on my Instagram scroll, his paintings do recall the generalized seamlessness of software visuals. But a slower look, ideally one that involves an encounter with the actual surface, brings information that rewards the eye with nuances of the handmade. The view that we’ve blithely traded in for easy access in a virtual world is the view Yu has painstakingly created for his viewers in what feels like a solid vote for the human and the material, even in their mediated states. It is a vote that Yu emphasizes in both the imagery and the processes he employs.

The only human figure present in the entire exhibition of twelve works, somewhat ironically, is in the show’s namesake, Hot Tub Reflections, wherein Yu depicts a portrait of a woman rendered with a Holbeinesque influence. And she is not a person, but rather a painting within a painting, in what appears to be a hypersaturated bathroom setting. The direct gaze comes not from this woman in the portrait, but rather bizarrely from a pair of toothbrushes, which lean suggestively against the side of a cup of hot water. One can only imagine it is the toothbrushes, themselves, that are doing the reflecting.

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Shangkai Kevin Yu


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