A stunning quest of identity through art
Born in China, where she was a recognized artist before moving to Switzerland, Mingjun Luo vacillates between the identities of her former and present homelands. Her thoughtful and subtle art conveys what it feels like to have been wiped off Chinese registries when she gained her Swiss nationality, as if she had never been born to the parents who remained behind.
“My art is my life path, my interior life path,” she says. There is a strange, almost disturbing, loveliness in what she does.
The Pully exhibition is like a total eclipse, where the sun and moon vie for the same place in the sky: it is difficult to decide which one is winning, as the light hesitates between transparency and darkness, between appearance and disappearance. Canvases the size of a movie screen, where figures bathe in fog, are ripped out of their silence by an adjacent video where a Chinese civil servant stamps an identity card with the force of a hammer.
“This is a voyage into the evanescence of memory,” the artist explains. “It is like a comma that indicates that a sentence is not finished.”
One of many highlights is a film where Mingjun, suitcase in hand, remains stranded between two lanes of uninterrupted traffic, a perfect metaphor for her suspended identity. Another is a tiny pencil drawing by a window entitled, simply: ‘Lonely’.
“In Chinese painting, voids are an invitation,” she says. “Think of those fish in water: you can feel the water, but you can’t see it.”
For anyone who has experienced the feeling of no longer belonging, this show is like a salve on a wound. ‘Here and Now’ is about being neither here, nor there, but also about the promise of fulfillment when one begins to belong somewhere else.
See note on Musée d’Art de Pully at end.
Musée d’Art de Pully
With an aim to presenting regional art, the Pully fine arts museum could easily have fallen into the trap of parochialism. Instead, it has become an exciting showcase for the vibrant local art scene.
Since taking over the reins of a small municipal museum in 2008, a young team led by the charismatic Delphine Rivier has put Pully, a town that touches the bigger Lausanne, on the international art map with artists who live or work in Switzerland. And there are some fine discoveries to be made.
With a programme that alternates between established and up-and-coming artists, between classical and cutting edge, the Musée d’Art de Pully has gained a reputation for excellence and daring.
Contemporary Swiss artists who have a following beyond Switzerland, like Emmanuelle Antille, Robert Ireland, Sophie Auslander Bouvier, Carmen Perrin and Mingjun Luo have been given carte blanche to transform the luminous space to their liking. An exhibition of the works of Zao Wou-ki, who lived locally towards the end of his life, travelled under the Pully umbrella to China in 2016.
It helps that the museum is housed in a charming old townhouse that looks out over Lake Geneva. Guided visits, free brunches, workshops for children and conferences draw new audiences to the inspiring programme.
Within walking distance of Lausanne, and easily reached by public transportation, Pully also houses la Villa Romain (Roman villa), an archaeological treasure run by the same museum team.