“Oh my goodness, there’s a naked man in the corner”, I noted to my friend Kate as we entered the new Shen Saomin exhibition at Sydney’s 4A Gallery. I’m not sure if he’ll be there all the time, or was just there for the opening night. But, there he was, a naked man, seated in the corner on an inflatable ring. He was within cooeee of the standout piece in the exhibition, the image of a naked, aged woman made out of latex (I assume) seated on a deck chair. In contrast to the young living man, the woman portrayed as very old, towards the end of her life. But she was still breathing, and if you looked closely you could see her chest rise and fall. In addition, the exhibition included lots of other “naked” works, all of them without hair/feather/fur.
“This is one of the best openings I’ve been to”, I told Aaron Seeto who runs 4A. And then I asked, “how much salt is there”, to which he replied “enough”. What was a traditional gallery space was transformed into something quite magical, with the entire floor covered in salt. We all needed to wear blue coloured shoe protectors as we walked around the space.
Unlike some exhibition openings where you see people sipping wine, chatting to people, and with their backs to the work, those attending this exhibition opening were actively engaged with the works. I spent ages and ages looking at the works. I watched the old woman breath. I even sneaked a peak at the naked man. Other people even poked the naked man to make sure he was “real”. He smiled, though it must have gotten annoying after a while.