A stunning quest for identity through art
Born in China, where she was a recognized artist before moving to Switzerland, Mingjun Luo vacillates between the identities of her former and present homelands. Her thoughtful and subtle art conveys what it feels like to have been wiped off Chinese registries when she gained her Swiss nationality, as if she had never been born to the parents who remained behind.
Rarely does a contemporary artist express herself across so many mediums with equal ease. Academically trained in China as an oil painter, a technique in which she is highly skilled, Mingjun has found new ways to translate her anger, sadness and hope through installations, sculptures and films that fill the museum space.
“My art is my life path, my interior life path,” she says. There is a strange, almost disturbing, loveliness in what she does.
The Pully exhibition is like a total eclipse, where the sun and moon vie for the same place in the sky: it is difficult to decide which one is winning, as the light hesitates between transparency and darkness, between appearance and disappearance. Canvases the size of a movie screen, where figures bathe in fog, are ripped out of their silence by an adjacent video where a Chinese civil servant stamps an identity card with the force of a hammer.
“This is a voyage into the evanescence of memory,” the artist explains. “It is like a comma that indicates that a sentence is not finished.”
One of many highlights is a film where Mingjun, suitcase in hand, remains stranded between two lanes of uninterrupted traffic, a perfect metaphor for her suspended identity. Another is a tiny pencil drawing by a window entitled, simply: ‘Lonely’.
“In Chinese painting, voids are an invitation,” she says. “Think of those fish in water: you can feel the water, but you can’t see it.”
For anyone who has experienced the feeling of no longer belonging, this show is like a salve on a wound. ‘Here and Now’ is about being neither here, nor there, but also about the promise of fulfillment that belongs somewhere else.