Prof. Dr Barbara Freifrau von der Lühe | Professor of Media Studies at the Institute of German Studies at Zhejiang University Hangzhou | China and at the Institute of Language and Communication at TU Berlin | Germany | Freelance journalist | Author

Introduction to the exhibition "Insight vs. Outlook
by Judith Sturm and Yi Lü

(on the occasion of the vernissage at the YN Art Institute Hangzhou and the John Rabe Hall of the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Shanghai)

Prof. Dr. Barbara Freifrau von der Lühe | Professor of Media Studies at the Institute of German Studies at Zhejiang University Hangzhou | China and at the Institute for Language and Communication at the Technical University Berlin | Germany | freelance journalist | author.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Tonight we have the honour and pleasure to present two talented young artists from Germany and China - Judith Sturm and Yi Lü.

As master students of the German Documenta artist Prof. Bodo Baumgarten, they shared fruitful discussions and inspiring studies at the Saarbrücken Art Academy.Both artists stimulate controversy in their interpretations and share a close relationship with human nature.The most obvious similarity between the two artists' works are the people depicted: Scantily clad people are depicted in very private moments. For both painters, nudity signifies weakness and isolation in contemporary society.Both use the camera to gather information and create a photorealistic image of people. In their work, however, change and movement seem to be frozen in time.

Just as there are similarities, there are also clearly recognisable differences. So it is two contrasting techniques that create great diversity:

Judith Sturm, who uses acrylic paint and oil paint, takes advantage of the medium's ability to connect with many different surfaces by changing the appearance of hardness and flexibility of texture - she even works salt into the artwork to give a particular expression to human skin. Yi Lü, on the other hand, uses oil painting - with stunning effects of emotion.

These differences also emerge when we look at the way these feelings and ideas are conveyed. So let's also examine the different approach to their works, their focus and subject.
Judith Sturm shows detailed depictions of female models interspersed with psychological and sexual content. Her style is reminiscent of Verism, the artistic preference for contemporary everyday subjects. She is fascinated by themes from popular mass culture, such as advertising and everyday cultural objects.

Judith Sturm plays with all the emotional associations associated with fetish fashion such as high heels, underwear, miniskirts and panties. In the modern media, images of partial and full nudity are used in advertising to attract extra attention. Sex appeal has become the main selling point. Moreover, the aspect of each female figure in Sturm's paintings is intended as a philosophical medium. She began the offering with the motivation that we must "alone" reach a level of spiritual understanding.

In Judith Sturm's paintings, the women have been reduced to objects, without faces, without individuality. Are there erotic connotations? Or can we feel their loneliness in modern society?

Yi Lü, on the other hand, shows groups or individuals on the beach. The people in his pictures have faces; they seem to ponder their fate in an inner monologue. In this sense, Yi Lü's paintings are more individual. But the painter also describes the 'landscape of loneliness': it is a montage of isolated people in contrast to the expansive view of the Baltic Sea. His paintings reflect his own loneliness in this environment.In Yi Lü's paintings, the viewer is instantly drawn to the sea - to the coast of northern Germany. Here, on the island of Rügen, he has found his paradise. Just as Gauguin discovered his paradise on a tropical island in the Pacific over a hundred years ago. Tropical fairytale island of Rügen - a big surprise for me as a German!But let's examine Yi Lü's interpretation a little further. If we follow the traces of his vision, we come across two artists who were committed to nature and human solitude.First of all, there is Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin, a leading post-impressionist painter. His bold and unapologetic colour experiments led straight to the synthetic style of modern art. We can also find these strong colours in Yi Lü's paintings: Blue, red and yellow. When Gauguin went to Tahiti in 1891, he was looking for a more elemental and simple society than that of his native France. He painted the almost naked women and girls on the island so far from France. It was there, in the village of Mataiea in Tahiti, that he created his masterpiece 'Where do we come from? This question is also a 'leitmotif' in Yi Lü's work. Yi Lü finds his elemental and unadulterated society on Rügen. He is fascinated by the relaxed lifestyle of ordinary people. And of course the nudity on the beaches: There are many nudist beaches there. In Scandinavia with its sauna culture, swimming naked is an accepted tradition. In Germany, too, people enjoy public nudity in a non-sexual context.

Nudity in art generally reflects - with some exceptions - social standards of aesthetics and morality of the respective time.Considering these multifaceted factors, Yi Lü goes beyond a mere description to illuminate differences in the representation of naked people cross-culturally. When we think of Rügen, we naturally recall the German painter Caspar David Friedrich.His famous oil painting 'Chalk Rocks on Rügen' (1818/19) revealed a new perception of nature.He strove not simply to depict - as in classical concepts - the pleasure of a beautiful view, but to capture a moment of sublimity, a reunion with the spiritual self through the contemplation of nature. Friedrich's life and art are animated by a deep sense of solitude - he found this seclusion in the endless expanse of the Baltic Sea. Chinese landscape painters do not long for the sea or the lonely islands - their longing for paradise focuses on the sacred mountains and holy rivers. Their paintings describe the western paradise of Amida Buddha with its gem-studded towers, crystal-clear lakes and flowering trees. But Yie Lu's studies and experiences in Germany helped him to develop a different consciousness, one that combines concepts of Chinese and Western art.

And so he found his way from China to a paradise in the West - the German island of Rügen.

Now it's up to you to find your paradise! Enjoy the exhibition!

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