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Beauty at its prime is ephemeral. In the exhibition “In Younger Days”, the beauty of youthfulness is represented by the symbolism of the flower. Given different art and cultural contexts, from Cao Xueqin’s Flower Burial to the tradition of still-life in European paintings, what the iconic flower implies for the transition from the glories of the life to its decay; the anxiety and lament at the relentlessness of transience as prosperity is destined for nihilism.

These three artists presented their respective versions of  “a portrait of the flower”. Liu Ye depicted the front, back covers and first page of Nabokov’s classic novel Lolita as a work of still-life on canvas, iterating the image of a young girl filled with amorous desires in a lasting monumentality. Within Book Paintings (triptych), the pictorial and textural symbolisms are intimately tied together, wandering between these two systems of representations, the visual and the literary. Hao Liang’s Dissection Series (2010) divides an individual’s metaphysical (spiritual) and physical (body) into two sets of images for which he adopts an objective and calm perspective in observing the impermanence of life. The flowers appear in chapter eight and fifteen resonate with the comparisons to such iconography in traditional Chinese poetry. Lilies (2012), consists of the 12 faux lilies artist Kwan Sheung Chi has collected, encapsulates the ideals of the “beautiful lilies” appealing to potential clients while projecting the spectacle of the social subconscious built repetitively by many laborers. The lightness and elegance of manufactured goods entail self-evident pain and suffering, which are both historical and present.

Each work in the exhibition “In Younger Days” is synonymous with the iconography of the “flower” – wandering between beauty and crises, denoted with an underlying contradiction, while these artists have perfectly balanced and stabilized these two contending states.

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