Reflections On Identity And Self-Perception

“I’ll be your mirror

Reflect what you are, in case you don’t know

I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset

The light on your door to show that you’re home”

– Velvet Underground


Though OV Gallery takes the name of its current exhibition, “I’ll Be Your Mirror” from the Velvet Underground song of the same title, the true inspiration for the exhibition came from an artwork by Jiangsu-born artist Wu Gaozhong. 


His “Mirror Frame” series of sculptures takes mirrors as a starting point, before their surface is painted and covered in animal fur, removing their original ability to reflect. OV Gallery curator, Rebecca Catching, saw the pieces at a studio in Beijing and was instantly inspired.

“They’re interesting because they are mirrors but not reflective at all. It made be think about how we see ourselves and how we understand who we really are. We think we see ourselves really well, but actually we don’t,” she said.

The encounter was enough to spur Catching to search out other works looking at a similar theme and eventually bringing them together for a group show featuring the work of eight artists, all of whom approach their subject matter using a variety of methodologies and materials. 

Alongside Wu Gaozhong’s mirrors are drawings on joss paper documenting the personal principles of Ailadi Cortelletti, who set Catching’s pulse racing when she ceremonially burned some of them at the opening as a way of freeing herself from the burden of personal expectation.


Zheng Wenxin’s seven-meter painting is difficult to sum up in only a few words, but is centered around a glass box containing a strange home environment complete with sparse furnishings and a striped wall, lit like an operating theatre, and surrounded by children’s toys, a ship and a number of doors and stairways leading from the main area, perhaps leading to the more hidden parts of the psyche or subconscious mind.

“In this piece she’s looking at how we compartmentalize ourselves, so we think we are a certain entity or kind of person, but actually, we are much more than that, more than we imagine ourselves to be,” Catching explains. 

Portraits in varying forms also make an appearance, including Wang Taocheng’s unique “silk wrapped” series which  are preoccupied not only with the human subjects, in this case five contemporary artists living and working in Europe, but also with dimension as they are built on layers of materials.

Meanwhile, Yunnan-born, Beijing-based artist, Shi Jing, also plays with the dimensions of portraiture by painting a series of portraits, each of which reveals two different sides of the subject depending upon the angle and light.

Hong Kong-based artists David Boyce and Adrian Wong have also contributed portraits to the show, “Affective Portraits” is a collaborative work that takes old-style family portraits as a starting point.

But rather than the forced emotion and fake smiles which are traditionally part and parcel of the medium, Wong and Boyce worked at bringing out real emotion in the subjects – by recounting a sad memory, watching a disturbing video, chopping onion or smelling seafood that had been sitting in the sun for the day. 

In the process, Boyce explains, they subvert the “rules” of traditional portraiture, which carries with it the idea of “unvarnished truth” – they are meant to be accurate reflections of their subjects, though in truth they are often anything but, with the artificial portraiture environment leading to subjects masking any sense of their real persona or emotional state with what Boyce calls a “cookie-cutter smile”.

“These portraits give a different reading on the idea of what people are,” he said.

“It’s looking at conveying things that people wouldn’t normally convey, emotions of fear, joy, ecstasy, anger – the things that we usually keep inside us.” 

The portraits are displayed on the walls of a manufactured home environment within the gallery, with painted walls, as well as furniture and potted plants imported from Catching’s own home now part of the installation, which Boyce believes is an important part of inviting the audience in to experience the portraits.

“I’m a big believer in the audience being a part of the work, so the audience will have their own reaction to the work,” he said. “I’d like to think some people will find them uplifting. I’m sure other people will find them depressing, some people will not find them anything at all.” 


“I’ll Be Your Mirror” runs until 11 September (closed Mondays) at OV Gallery, Room 207, Building 4A, 50 Moganshan Lu. Tel: 139 1637 3474. Web:


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