Quentin Shih — I Love Dior
I Love Dior
Past: October 31 → December 14, 2013
“Through photography, we can tell a story. We can paint with light. I like my photography to be dramatic, but to also have a narrative.”
Shi Xiaofan, as known as Quentin Shih, is a Chinese self-taught photographer who lives and works between New York and Beijing.
Quentin Shih is well recognized for his individual style, which combines a cinematic, almost oneiric approach, and documentary details. Composition and light, two aspects inspired by Edward Hopper, give to his expression a singularity and enigmatic atmosphere. The vast sets, elaborately staged, dramatically lit, with a particular attention to colours, the sharps contours, the large format; all of that engages in emotional narratives. In those elaborate stages, we enter into imaginary settings that reveal the loneliness of people in a surrealistic way.
“If there is an art movement that inspired me, that’s Surrealism."
In looking at his photographs, we experience a form of dream, a world where reality and fantastic confront each other.
Quentin Shih’s artworks focus on the relationship between cultures. He creates his own language, referring to both Eastern and Western culture, making light of the interaction between the two forms of imagery, highlighting the beauty and grotesqueness of both worlds. Thus, his best-known photographs display the uniformity of the Chinese people deprived of any form of singularity during the communist years, while confronting it to the cult of the individual in occidental countries. Quentin Shih treats that concept of Western and Eastern culture clash with some derision, that one could consider controversial.
Considered one of the most promising Chinese photographers of his generation, this young artist tends to an international increasing success and recognition. Quentin Shih has won numerous prestigious international advertising and photography awards. In 2007, he was named “Photographer of the Year” by Chinese Magazine Esquire and was winner in the Fine Art Category at the 2009 Hasselblad Masters Award.
Quentin Shih began by shooting photos in college for local underground musiciansand artists. Then, he came to Beijing to develop his career as a professional photographer. During his career, he participated in numerous exhibitions in China and America with his fine art photographic works and his interest has been expanded into commercial and fashion photography. He produces work for top commercial clients such as Adidas, Nokia, Microsoft, IBM, Yahoo, Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Red Bull, Samsung; and international publications, such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Esquire. His commercial work supports his personal work and gives him the experience in working together with a creative crew and develops his technical skills.
In 2008, he was selected by Christian Dior as one of the twenty Chinese contemporary artists to participate in their exhibition Dior with Chinese Contemporary Artists at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Since then, the artist has been working closely with Dior, featuring the new couture collections of the brand through his artworks. The series The Stranger In The Glass Box and Gifts for Wuhan are the result of collaboration with Dior. They create a dialog between two areas and two different means of expression, contemporary art and fashion. The models dressed in Christian Dior haute couture enter the ordinary lives of locals in a surreal and quiet way, creating a form of virtual reality.
The series The Stranger in The Glass Box juxtapose industrial scenes from traditional and austere China with Dior models. Each photograph depicts a model trapped in a glass box, visible to onlookers, appearing in incongruous locations throughout Seventies and Eighties China. The cold and glamorous Western models hardly look at peace in the strange world that Quentin Shih has created. The artist sees those pictures as a metaphor of the West, locked in a glass box, exposed to one of the most powerful country in the world but still rooted in its past. The photos are expressed in large spaces, which represent the greatness of China. Quentin Shih depicts the Cultural Revolution as a dream, a surreal era, giving to those series a hazy, ethereal feel, like family photos that have been dusted off after decades to reveal an era long gone, exploring his sense of uncertainty relating to the Chinese development. While China moves tremendously fast from collectivism towards rebellious individualism, he finds exciting to see so many things coming up and disappearing every day. Thus, he deplores that a city like Beijing, now being almost a Western city, little by little has lost its own tradition and characters.
In the series about the city of Wuhan, Quentin Shih‘s fourth cooperation with Christian Dior, he features a model entering the life of some Wuhan locals. The scenes are packed with meticulously designed open sets representing an ordinary space. The photographer was inspired by the history of the city, the people living there, the color, the lighting and every details. When he first visited the city of Wuhan, he saw a great deal of abandoned small restaurants and small dance clubs on the bend of the river, like some spaces being cut out. Inspired by those places, he created open spaces in the streets, resembling much of the city’s culture, mysterious and far-reaching. The models dressed in haute couture enter the ordinary lives of Wuhan locals in a ceremonial way. They exchange gifts with each other, seemingly familiar yet foreign. Those presents represent the relationship between the extremely rapid development of Chinese cities and the French fashion house Dior, who adapted to suit the evolution of their demand.
Quentin Shih photographs are exhibited in major contemporary fairs (Art Basel Miami, FIAC 2011, etc) and his work is shown in many countries such as China, the U.S., Singapore, France, Korea… His artworks have been purchased by major public and private collections, for instance the Danforth Museum of Art, the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow, the LACMA of Los Angeles, the Mint Museum in South Carolina, and the Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing.