Works created by a group of young artists born during 1970s and 1980s, or so-called bā líng hòu generation, clearly differ from works created by artists from China Avant-Garde generation, who went through Tiananmen Square Massacre. As China Avant-Garde generation completed political pop art and cynical realism by fighting through social, economic, and political situations, bā líng hòu generation’s works intimately voiced out their thoughts rather than following a trend of conflict between ideologies. Born in 1984, Ni Youyu has continuously created works that tell his inner stories. Ni Youyu, who studied Chinese painting, integrates contemporary art with sceneries of the Song Dynasty and attempts new artistic styles.
One of his representative works, Galaxy Project (also known as Pound Money series), started from innocent curiosity from his childhood. For young Ni Youyu, ‘money’ was ‘something’ that carried value in which could be exchanged for anything. In 2008, right after he graduated from college, the whole world was suffering from economic crisis; galleries were going out of business and artists were giving up their artistic careers and were trying to get jobs simply for living. Ni Youyu recalled upon the value of ‘money’ and decided to “Make Money with Money.” Ni ‘pounds’ and ‘paints’ on the coin; he pounds the coin with a hammer and rubs it with sandpaper and scratches the coin surface with a knife so that any text or image on the coin is erased. Then, he applies narratives from Chinese folklores and his own personal stories, ultimately creating a new image. By this, the coin gains a new value as a ‘piece of art.’ Through this process, Ni offers a new perspective by blurring the borderline between physical realism and the value of an object. This view continues onto Ni’s paintings and installation works; especially his canvas work resembles a kind of meditation where paint is put on the canvas then washed out, then paint is painted on again, then washed out and this process is repeated numerous times.
Born in 1984 in Ganzhou, China, Ni earned his BFA at College of Fine Arts in Shanghai University. He participated in special exhibition at 2012 Gwangju Biennale Ctrl+N, and at same year, he held a solo exhibition entitled Ni Youyu: Brief History at Shanghai Art Museum. In 2014, he held his solo show Inches of Time at the Art Museum of Nanjing University.