Shi Guowei
Manufactured Landscape

Through this hand-painting process, Shi Guowei created Manufactured Landscape. At first glance, the painting appears from afar as a landscape photograph. Yet, upon closer attention, the work reveals itself as a landscape painting thoroughly hand-colored by the artist onto a photograph. Contrasting with editing techniques of digital photography available today thanks to technology, this process of layering and color-saturation creates an ambiguous sense of time and space, rather than a realistic one. As a consequence, the landscape appears uncanny and almost threatening. In doing so, the work emphasizes the idea of “nature” as a constructed concept by men while fostering greater awareness of the role men play in shaping and destroying the natural world. The work also challenges traditional norms in landscape painting in China, which according to Chinese tradition, often rendered landscapes in the form of a vertical scroll rather than Shi Guowei’s horizontal or square work.

Shi Guowei is concerned with notions of historical and cultural traditions as they relate to current socio-political issues. Working mainly with photography, the artist is best known for his works that examine the complex issues that arise when traditional Chinese culture collides with more recent social, artistic, and political realities, both of China and beyond. Shi’s process of hand-coloring photographs is influenced by traditional hand painting techniques in China. Painters developed this traditional technique to create a heightened sense of depth, color, and realism behind each work. To create these works, the artist first took a digital black-and-white photograph of a landscape significant to him and then developed the print onto photographic paper. From memory, the artist finally applied paint, carefully and thoroughly by hand, to add color.