The Uncompromising #01: Ay Tjoe Christine


Ota Fine Arts Shanghai is delighted to present "The Uncompromising #01", Ay Tjoe Christine's second solo exhibition in Shanghai, China. The works on view include an installation work previously shown at ARTJOG MMXXII, 8 new paintings and several works on paper.

Over the course of the pandemic, Ay Tjoe's work has started to take on more biomorphic forms. In 2020, she began producing a series of works inspired by a metabolic state of life called cryptobiosis. Cryptobiosis refers to a period of extreme inactivity that an organism enters into in order to survive harsh environmental conditions. Ay Tjoe relates our experience of the Covid pandemic to cryptobiosis, interpreting the enforced lockdown and reduced activity as a chance for reflection and reinvigoration.

The installation work, Personal Denominator, takes on the form of a creature known as the tardigrade. Tardigrades are microscopic aquatic animals that are known colloquially as water bears or moss piglets. Commonly known as the most resilient organism on earth, it can survive being boiled, frozen, and exposed to extreme radiation and high pressures. The toughest of tardigrades can withstand a cryptobiosis phase for up to 10 years - by having its body completely dried out, and becoming dormant until it is rehydrated and revived with water. At a time where resources were scarce and mobility was restricted, Ay Tjoe was most inspired by the creature's ability to survive in extreme conditions. As we encounter this fascinating creature that breathes and pulsates, Ay Tjoe implores and hopes for audiences to extend their ways of thinking forward, to lengthen and to widen our boundaries of space, and to glean from the tardigrade.

We know the 'denominator' to be the number below the line in a common fraction, a divisor. As a mathematical rule, the denominator can never be zero. In response, Ay Tjoe has named this installation as her "Personal Denominator". Despite how small or non-significant a divisor may be, it can never be void. Ay Tjoe draws parallels with the life force, an energy that permeates all living things.

The 8 paintings and 8 drawings in this exhibition have similar titles such as A Piece of Liquid and A Small Piece of Liquid. As a tardigrade is rehydrated and revived with drops of water, Ay Tjoe turns our attention to the image of a liquid. She wonders how she could select, position, cut and place liquid such that it invigorates the creature, bringing it back to life. The liquid that she constructs is seemingly figurative, yet abstract at the same time. Blueish, grey and beige marks on the canvas come together to create mini liquid-explosions. Every streak or mark is like a gesture that points to the explosive effects of a singular drop of liquid, Ay Tjoe likens this to a process of maximizing and enjoying all things small in one's ownership. While her use of the oil bar remains unchanged, and that lines still form the basis of her paintings, the composition of the paintings and drawings draws more from her experience and associations that have formed from surviving the pandemic. They are the muted yet unreserved marks of an artist who have overcome, and have in her own way internalize and found a resonance with the uncompromising tardigrade.

Coinciding with this exhibition is the grand re-opening of Ota Fine Arts Shanghai at its new Rockbund venue. Designed by Neri and Hu, a Shanghai-based architecture and design firm founded by Lyndon Neri and Rosanna Hu, the new gallery boasts a large yet intimate gallery space, and several viewing rooms. Ota Fine Arts Shanghai hopes to welcome you to unlimited possibilities in our new Rockbund gallery space!

Installation Views