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Peng Jian: Squaring the Circle

5 October 2022 - 13 November 2022



Ora-Ora is pleased to announce a new solo show by Hangzhou-based artist, Peng Jian. Titled Squaring the Circle, the exhibition will take place at Ora-Ora’s Tai Kwun space from October 5, to November 13, 2022.

Peng Jian rose to prominence through his geometric ink-on-paper interpretations of the Chinese architectural teachings of jiehua. He has since developed his themes into canvas, and at Art Basel Hong Kong 2021 presented a landmark series of NFT artworks titled Harmony X, a colourful geometric work of agency and dynamism, fascinating in turn by action and reaction.

This exhibition will feature Peng Jian’s works from the Harmony, Still Life, Phantom in the Bottle and Growing series. Twists and turns are the common ground across these series of works, specifically the straight lines and curves that dominate each. Harmony expresses the tortuous relationship between recurring objects and images, whilst Still Life highlights the twists and turns of the lines themselves. Lengths, proportions and angles are carefully calculated to support a complex balance and interdependence of objects. Phantom in the Bottle limits those twists and turns to specific images, making a simple vessel fuller and more ambiguous. The Growing series emphasizes curves, through the collision of objects and the surrounding environment, forming an opposing and separate relationship between the object and the self. The English title, Squaring the Circle, asks the visitor to reconcile some of the opposing forces of line and curve, and to find the meanings in the symbolism of Peng Jian’s work.

Peng Jian, originally from Hunan, graduated from the China Academy of Art, and now lives and works in Hangzhou. Perhaps it was the experience of living abroad that confirmed Peng Jian’s interest in and connection with Western culture, art, and ideas. This natural collision of Eastern and Western cultures has subtly influenced Peng Jian, granting his work more openness and range, integrating western philosophical thinking with the more traditional eastern Zen “emptiness”, and gradually forming a set of distinct, personal characteristics and signature artistic language.

Harmony depicts “a mountain of varying objects” maintaining balance on a slender line, reminiscent of an acrobatic performance in a circus. Everyday objects are deliberately divided into geometric shapes in the painting, so that the first sight of the work will engender a vague sense of chaos, without a descent into disarray and disorder. The whole work is like a woven net, rational and powerful. The repeated appearance of different objects in the picture and their interspersed, overlapping relationships and rich colours create a game-like atmosphere, hiding threats of chaos within a seemingly playful and relaxed situation.

Western influence can clearly be detected in Peng Jian’s Still Life. The rigour and meticulousness of his composition is reminiscent of Raphael, whilst the beauty of his pursuit of colour and order is reminiscent of Cézanne. However, in Peng Jian, behind the flat images there is a touch of oriental humanism. The work focuses on the use of lines as a form of objective depiction, and the colouring is relaxed and poised. The artist is sensitive to subtle changes in the state of objects, and then unfolds it directly into a flat abstraction. There is a very real sense of reality hidden in the impression of transformation, asserting colour as an intuitive phenomenon. The colour in the work has a temperature, and as time and light changes, so too does the colour. As the light alters, and time passes, a vague and mysterious atmosphere is faintly born under the clear blue background. Phantom of the Bottle is a continuation of this Still Life series, prompting a focus on the integrity and richness of the internal structure of the object.

The series Growing continues the artist’s line of using common objects from daily life as objects of creation. It is divided into four parts: apple, banana, orange and pear. The fruit moves and collides at will within the confines of the space. Each collision will form a curved groove, and makes a sound on impact. Fruits come to represent the individual; when the individual collides with the whole, the whole demonstrates traces of depression. As such, the individual’s relationship with society is a subject of investigation.

Peng Jian’s exploration of twists and turns is not only limited to lines and curves, but also involves social order, the hidden tension between objects, and the overlap between different situations. His works are not completely figurative, but symbolic: “I define different objects within a limited space, seeking meaning in restrained symbolism.” This geometric juggling of opposites within the constraints of logic justifies the title: Squaring the Circle.


Peng Jian was born in Yueyang, Hunan Province in 1982. He graduated with an MFA from the China Academy of Art at Hangzhou in 2013, where he continues to reside.

Peng Jian harnesses the classical Chinese architectural style of jiehua to form grids and interlocking blocks of colour and shape. A shift has emerged in recent years, where the angularity of Rubik’s cubes and books has yielded ground to voluptuous objects including glass bottles, cogs, wheels and balls. Interested in glass blowing since 2006, Peng Jian observes the crossroads between western and eastern perspectives: “the bottle in the painting, although it is not a classic form, embodies the pureness and simplicity of contemporary art, while incorporating the refined atmosphere of traditional Chinese Song painting.” Peng Jian is an artist who both recognizes debts to the past, and the impetus of innovation and metamorphosis that the present brings. With that ethos in mind, he created his first NFT series, which was presented at Art Basel Hong Kong 2021. He is now diversifying his practice to canvas, expanding his Harmony series into this medium. This marks the beginning of a new chapter in his journey, one where “different materials present different results.” In his own words, “Whether it be ink on paper or animation, the expression is paramount. I’m always willing to try more ways to express my ideas.”

Peng Jian’s works are collected by the Today Art Museum and the Liu Haisu Art Museum among other institutions. Recent solo shows include “Hard Edge” (2020), “Harmony” (2019) at Ora-Ora, and “Ten Miles Away” (2017) at Hong Kong’s Liang Yi Museum. He regularly forms part of Ora-Ora’s Art Basel Hong Kong exhibitions, including from 2016 to 2019 and in 2021 and 2022.


5 October 2022
13 November 2022
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