Born Kunming, 1968
Cao Hui is best known for his oversized and shockingly realistic sculptures of half-flayed animals. His primary aim, he says, is to “trigger the viewer’s emotions: surprise, sorrow, anger, sadness or laughter”, and in the series of which Urinals (2001) is part, he goes for laughs. The fibreglass sculptures are intended simply “to make fun of everyday objects,” he says. But he is well aware that many viewers will associate his urinals (the bodies, he says, are male) with Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Fountain—itself a grand artistic joke.
People differentiate between artist and non-artist based on degree of mastery in imitating nature, and further differentiate Realism from Hyperrealism based on skill in rendering details. Different motivations on the part of the artist can also be used to make distinctions such as Realism, Symbolism or perhaps other “isms.”
Artworks made in the name of Photorealism, Realism, and even Hyperrealism are all likewise fabricated from piles of mud or with daubs of color on the surface of canvas. Increasingly uneasy and dissatisfied with merely describing surface appearances, artists now attempt to plumb the inner reaches of things; an agenda that apparently moves into science or other fields. It seems artists are no longer happy just being artists, but are driven by their inborn love of performance to try out new roles, such as philosopher, scientist, doctor or perhaps even engineer. I think artists really want to play god more than anything else, and will stop at nothing to construct a truth that validates the self. They first delude themselves, then maybe move on to people around them. I really wonder to what extent these self deceptions and constructed truths can strike a nerve in the knowing onlooker.
Nonetheless, self deception is of primary importance as it permits a belief in understanding the surface as well as the interior. In this way the relationship between the interior and exterior of everything seems to possess a perfect logic, and can be interpreted with established knowledge. In order to deceive others, we explain with theory after theory, but it all ends in laughter and sometimes we even amuse ourselves before god laughs.
“Cao Hui expands on the complicated relationships between reality and its reflections, using images that are at once realistic and metaphorical.” - critic Feng Boyi