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Shi Guowei: The Drawn Out Moment


Since returning to Beijing in 2006 from studies completed at the Fachhochschule Dortmund, Germany, Luoyang-born Shi Guowei (1977) has evolved a singular, compelling, style of visual expression: a subtle, deft combination of photography and painting. He first makes a black and white photograph using a large format camera. Once the photograph has been printed to his satisfaction, he begins the second act of creation, the work of painting on the photograph to transform the black and white base into a richly coloured new photograph. The process takes a long time, and requires the artist’s steadfast coordination of eye and hand, first through the camera lens and then via the highly controlled painting with a fine brush. Shi Guowei’s process of hand-colouring photographs is influenced by traditional hand-painting techniques in China; techniques developed to create a heightened sense of depth, pigment tone, and realism behind each work. But, importantly, the tones of colour are applied intuitively, from memory, making the final photo work a memory of place created through the eye and the heart. For this reason Shi Guowei describes his works as “photo-paintings”.

“The Drawn Out Moment” brings together approximately 50 works by the artist, created between 2006 and today, for what will be Shi Guowei’s first major retrospective, and the largest showing of his work in China to date.


Shi Guowei (b. 1977), currently lives and works in Beijing, and studied at the Fachhochschule, Dortmund. For his graduation, he took inspiration from the technique of hand-coloring photographs influenced from his parent’s generation. Through processes of using Kodak C-print, he first chemically develops the black and white print onto photographic paper – this becomes the ‘base color’ – before final hand painting the final layers to complete it. It is a traditional hand technique, which shares more than one hundred years of history with black and white photography – and it reappears again to beguile a new audience. For a long period of time, photography has become associated as an ‘objective’ form of reproducing objects. Taken this idea further, today the photographic technologies have reached a point of practically becoming an omnipotent presence in our lives. Shi Guowei uses his own work to challenge this point – There is still distance between color perceived with the naked eye, which far surpasses that of the lens. Color obtained in color photography still falls short to the vivid qualities of nature – in fact it pales in comparison. On the contrary, through the mind and its memory of the photographed scene, color is mixed and applied according to what feels appropriate to the scene – adding lucidity to the image as well as a heightened accuracy.


Major solo exhibitions include: “A Walk in the Woods”, Magician Space, Beijing (2019); “Crossing Four Girls Mountain”, Magician Space, Beijing (2016); “What Year Is It Today”, In-Shine Gallery, Beijing (2010); “Old Stories, Contemporary Retellings”, Cetus Gallery, Shanghai (2008).


Selected Group Exhibition: “Among the Trees”, Hayward Gallery, London (2020); “Chinese Whispers: Recent Art from the Sigg Collection”,MAK Museum Vienna, Vienna, Austria (2019); Changjiang International Photography and Video Biennale, Chongqing (2017); "Nature: A Subjective Place", Shanghai Center of Photography (SCoP), Shanghai (2016); "Don’t Shoot the Painter", Galleriad’ Arte Moderna Milano, Italy (2015); "The Civil Power", Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing (2015); "The Bright Eye of the Universe", Sundaram Tagore Gallery, New York (2015); "Made in China", London (2013); 6th Chengdu Biennale, Chengdu (2013); "Pop Sensation" from the UBS Art Collection, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, China (2012); "China: Memories & Imagination", Albemarle Gallery, London (2011); Dimplom-Arbeiten Dortmund Photography Exhibition, Germany (2006).

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