Steven He (b. 1994 in Shanghai, China) received his BFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016 and is currently an MA candidate at the Royal College of Art in London.
Steven aims to draw attention to the majesty of things that can often be overlooked. He takes inspiration from internet culture and art history to make satirical comments on the peculiar ways that our attention can be drawn. By playing fast and loose with the gap between eastern and western notions of beauty and philosophy and perceptions of relative status and value he aims to tease out mechanisms by which these ideas plant themselves and remembered in our minds.
During the summer I had moved to a new house and I started to make some painting to fill the empty walls. It was a real break from the sort of making that I had become used to during the academic periods. For the first time in years I felt like I was purely making artworks without any outside reason, purely for myself. I started painting rainbows because I like the fact that you don’t really see them a lot in paintings made by grown-ups. I think that rainbows are often mis-appreciated. I think they are dismissed a lot of the time because we assume that they appear childish or unsophisticated. But in nature, rainbows are never the same as the way that we think of them in our minds.
The frame has been a recurring theme in my artwork. I often use it as a stand-in for an external indicator that endows an object with psychological importance, like the presence of the gallery. The frame which used to be gilded and celebrated, that are more minimal now, in the background but still have the same power to point out something as worth looking at. In the past I had sometimes made the size, material or shape of a frame to show the presence of something that we are supposed to feel but don’t always talk about. I think that white wall in a gallery is important because it becomes a signifier to look deeper. When we walk into a temple, the room tell us to move and think a certain way. The art gallery pushes us to be more analytical about the objects within through its own sort of symbolism and mythology. By making the frame with as much visual value as the painting within, I wanted to remind the viewer to pay attention to the routine and unremarkable activities of our everyday lives and to imbue it with a kind of solemnity and depth of meaning that we do with our art.
The painting within the frame is a flipped view of the world around us, instead of viewing the world out from within us, the world is wrapped around the frame instead as a separate entity. I was thinking about the specific points in time, like around the discovery of farming or the circulation of the first photo taken of earth from space when there was a switch between viewing ourselves as a part of nature to a force that is separate from the world.