Zhonghao Chen, resident in Shanghai but a 2010 Masters Graduate of the Ilam School of Art, shows new painting at Jonathan Smart Gallery until August 16th.
In the handsome self-titled catalogue available with the exhibition (which includes 50 full colour reproductions) there are four short texts from which I borrow below:
“The physicality of the painted surface is one of the first things that you notice in looking at a painting by Zhonghao. Its scrubbed and smeared brushstrokes. Its accumulations, mounds and clots of paint. It is paint’s materiality that guides, establishes and forms the images and the subjects of Zhonghao’s paintings.
Funnels and drains discharge or suck-up coloured garbage, as conveyor belts transport amoebic blobs and polluted clumps become ships that float on rivers of sludge. It is as if Francis Bacon had been employed to re-animate Walt Disney’s Fantasia.
The Chinese Literati Painters of the 15th and 16th centuries sought through their painting to express the Taoist principle of that which cannot be named but underlies the nature of all things, and which can only be experienced through the observation of nature.”
Extracts from “The Peach Spring Beyond This World” by Robin Neate
And further upon this notion of the nature of things in Zhonghao’s paintings:
“What is this world of Zhonghao Chen? It is a simple and familiar world – a world of land and sea and sky. A world more terrible than any human creation may pretend to be. That is the diabolical, romantic promise of nature: to give succour through some contrived but wholly felt assertion of its grandness, its scale, its monumental disregard for all our ink and paper, our mathematics, our civic duties...
The paintings read like a series of stills in some ambiguous, incomplete narrative. A movie trailer maybe, accompanied by a blasting soundtrack of percussive crashes; an epic drama of destruction and transformation.”
Extracts from “No Sheltering Skies” by Creon Upton
Having said this, I find great joy, considerable humour and much generosity in these paintings. Some of their myriad pleasure resides, I think, in being able to register this young painter’s intent, his very physical expression through paint. In my mind’s eye I can see Zhonghao making these paintings. And this correspondence feels direct, important and comparatively easy. Is this, I wonder, part of what we mean when we say that this is painting that likes to be looked at? For it is certainly, both in its making and the experience of it, painting that feels completely and utterly enjoyable.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.