In 沈少民 Shen Shaomin’s “Bonsai” series, he has created a group of sculptures using the techniques of cultivating bonsai. Inspired by foot-binding, this work speaks about violence, control, deformation, artificial transformation of nature and the body for aesthetic purposes. Shen contorts and manipulates his miniature trees through the use of metal grips, vices, braces, clamps, metal meshes and armatures, trapping the plants and inhibiting their growth, while being contained in ceramic pots labeled with poetic terms/phrases and decorated with peaceful and heavenly landscape imagery.
Wu Hung writes: “Shen Shaomin turns invisible violence into tangible forms in his Bonsai series. Bonsai makes us reconsider the brutality in daily life, particularly that which has been transformed into kinds of aesthetic perception or concealed within nature itself. This group of works achieves its efficacy not because it displays the results of these man-made transformations, but makes apparent the process of transformation itself. Shen Shaomin uses two means for achieving this. First, the bonsais themselves display a sudden halt in the “process” like a freeze-frame in a movie, where all the small trees have been imprisoned in ironware, and hang like prisoners chained and shackled. Shen Shaomin calls these works “living installations. Collectors can choose to let them return to their original state or maintain this process. Even when the bonsai dies, these installations will still record the process and mechanisms behind their transformation. The second means is through texts: every bonsai is accompanied by a meticulously designed course of study. Dense passages and illustrations record how bonsais are made, and the procedures and matters needing attention.”
Artist’s website: Shen Shaomin