Robert Sawatzky
Mar 12, 2021

The art of household clutter

INSPIRATION STATION: Chinese pop artist Li Bangyao's Bangkok exhibit gives us pause to consider what happens to the value of household objects over time.

The art of household clutter

This week on Inspiration Station we look at an exhibition of key solo works by notable Chinese pop artist Li Bangyao from Tang Contemporary Art gallery in Bangkok. On display since February, the exhibition wraps up on March 21st. The gallery features many of Li's pieces from 2007 to 2020, including the most recent work from his Indoors series and important artworks from his other series like Personal Manual, Theory of Evolution, Origin of the Species and Ecstasy.

Beyond aesthetic value, why might this be of interest to creatives from the field of advertising and marketing? Because of the completely different take on consumer goods that it presents. We are used to seeing brand new household products presented and advertised often in isolation, with monochrome backgrounds that allow us to see the products clearly.

But as Tang's description of the exhibit points out, Li employs a similar technique but turns the typical product shot on its head. In his Origin of the Species series, the artist "uses advertising methods and bright monochrome backgrounds to present consumer goods as the subjects of the paintings" but selects not new modern objects but typical everyday consumer objects from eras gone by, like  bicycles, sewing machines, kerosene lamps, and old commemorative plaques.

Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok


In doing so, Li "responds to research into the shifting meanings of objects in a consumer society".  What happens to these products once they are purchased, brought home and used over time—then used less over time? They're not necessarily discarded but as Li has explored in his study of object-symbols since 2009, they form new relationships to the households and surroundings they are in. 

Over time, many of these objects form household clutter, and Li's work explores the remnants of consumerism in a series of interior scenes of rooms and objects left on desks and dressers. 

Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok
 
Artist: Li Bangyao, Gallery: Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok

The exhibition quotes the artist:

The states of household objects still surprise me. When a family unit has a certain number of functional products, their use value fades, and they gradually become energy. They begin to manifest the individual’s spiritual energy, and the objects start to convey the owner’s dreams, memories, hobbies, and values. Because they have these living characteristics, the objects have a kind of warmth.

Li Bangyao
 
You've arrived at Inspiration Station, a weekly look at imaginative and artistic work from creators of all kinds across Asia-Pacific. Or sometimes, we might ask a creative about what they're inspired by outside of work. Step off for a minute to recharge your creative batteries and find inspiration for that next big idea of yours further down the track.

 

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