'I'm not collecting trash, I'm transforming potential'

Lu Feiran
US-born artist Redic has drawn inspiration from discarded items retrieved from all corners of Shanghai.
Lu Feiran

Shot by Zhou Shengjie. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Subtitles by Lu Feiran.

Reported by Lu Feiran

Mannequins. Card boxes. Mirror shards. Poetry on the wall. Painted handrails and ceilings. Splashes of color. The lane house where Chicago-born artist Redic lives in Xuhui District is a veritable art gallery of imaginatively recycled junk.

The interdisciplinary artist, poet and singer from the US, who has lived in Shanghai for 12 years, takes an innovative approach to discarded furniture and other daily-life articles. He prowls the city streets, looking for what others might consider trash to use in his artworks.

"It's not that I'm randomly picking up things." Redic said. "It's something about an object in itself that speaks of 'purpose.' I'm not collecting trash; I'm transforming potential."

'I'm not collecting trash, I'm transforming potential'
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE
'I'm not collecting trash, I'm transforming potential'
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

Redic's home and studio in Xuhui District is an old lane house that he transformed into a small museum.

Redic attended Morehouse College in the US, where he started to create art with recycled materials. He was based in Los Angeles before coming to China in 2010. His artistic interest in discarded objects began before he first stepped foot on Chinese soil for a performance scheduled in the southern city of Guangzhou.

However, the contract for the performance didn't go to plan. With some unexpected time on his hands, Redic decided to visit the World Expo being staged in Shanghai.

He slept on the couch of friends for several nights before deciding that he didn't want to leave the city. There was something about Shanghai that made him feel destined to stay, he said.

Redic rented one of four units of a lane house built in 1940 and has spent 10 years transforming it into what is now literally an art gallery.

He is always happy to give visitors a tour of his home, explaining the backstories of each piece of artwork – from chancing upon an object of potential to its transformation.

The work "Sisters," for example, which is on a hallway wall, is derived from two mannequins salvaged from a closing shop. Redic said the piece is a tribute to his own sisters.

Another work, based on boxes holding face masks and dotted with mosaic mirrors, is part of his "Pandemic" series.

"You see a lot of mirrors in my work," he said. "I want to give a viewer the opportunity to reflect and come inside a work."

'I'm not collecting trash, I'm transforming potential'
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

Vintage and modern converge in Redic's living room.

'I'm not collecting trash, I'm transforming potential'
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

The hallways in the house are transformed into art corners.

Shanghai's rapid-fire development offers him opportunities to artistically link the past, present and future. Finding objects discarded in the name of progress saddens him, Redic said.

"I wanted to salvage some of the history, some of essence of neighborhoods, and then from a bigger standpoint, reinterpret them in art with the themes that I imbue in my mind," he said.

A major series of his works is entitled "THRONES," which are created from old chairs and stones found at construction sites.

"I take the stones and crush them into a consistency that I can use to mold and sculpt them," said Redic.

One of the "thrones" was created from a discarded chair that Redic retrieved from his own alleyway.

"It was calling to me," he said. "I didn't have any creative space for it, so I kept walking past it. I tried not to see it. But eventually I had to take it."

'I'm not collecting trash, I'm transforming potential'
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE
'I'm not collecting trash, I'm transforming potential'
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

Sculptural "THRONES" are a standing topic of Redic's works. They are collected from different corners of the city.

Over the years, Redic has enjoyed a friendly rapport with his neighbors, who didn't seem to mind when his artistic fervor spilled out into common areas like hallways and stairs.

He has shared important moments in their lives, like the birth of a first child to one couple.

Redic's works are now on display at an exhibition in Shanghai Culture Square, just a three-minute walk from the lane where he resides.

The exhibition, which runs through mid-March, is called "PRELUDE Rubies in the Rubble: The Humanity Chapters of Redic."

He calls it a "prelude" because he said this will be the first in a series of solo exhibitions in Europe this year.

His works are strongly evocative of Shanghai. Take his major series entitled "Doors of Shanghai/Doors of Life."

It is based on doors that Redic collected from different corners of the city. The first was found not far from his home in 2017.

'I'm not collecting trash, I'm transforming potential'
Kirill Buhtiyaro

The "Doors of Shanghai/Doors of Life" series is based on doors Redic collected from different corners of the city.

He covered the doors in his own modern art. On them, he painted poetry or lyrics that occurred to him while creating the artwork, and he used mirror shards and other objects for ornamentation.

"I've always been fascinated by doors," he said. "In Los Angeles, I had a series of works called 'Doors to My Imagination.' When I learned that Shanghai had 16 districts, I wanted to create a door for each of the districts."

The series conveys an array of messages that doors universally impart, like "doors of opportunity" and "as one door closes, another opens."

The current exhibition, which includes poetry readings and art-sharing events, will be Redic's last engagement before heading off to Europe.

"I feel that it's time to take my experiences in Shanghai and share them with more of the world," he said. "The roots of what I've done in Shanghai and in China run deep. "

Will he return?

"I need to leave the door open," he said enigmatically.

Exhibition info:

Date: Through March 18, 10am-7pm

Admission: Free

Venue: Yue Space, C3 (Gate 7), Shanghai Culture Square

Address: 225 Shaanxi Rd S.


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