French gallerist Almine Rech-Picasso opened her first space in Asia on Shanghai's historic Bund in July this year, bringing her eponymous gallery's total locations to five. The Shanghai gallery occupies roughly 4,000 square feet on the second floor of the three-storey Amber Building, a beautiful warehouse space, originally occupied by the Central...
There's an inside joke amongst the team of Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts: that every time an edition of its biennial forum on cultural practices is planned, a national crisis happens. The eighth edition of Home Works was no different: it opened on 17 October amidst the most devastating wildfires that Lebanon had witnessed...
Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...
Exhibition view: Zhao Zhao, One Second * One Year, Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong (8 August–22 September 2018). Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art and the artist.
Zhao Zhao had formerly been Ai Weiwei's studio assistant for seven years; they had first met in 2004, a year after Zhao had graduated from the Xinjiang Arts Institute. Ai Weiwei's close friendship with Zhao Zhao is very much in evidence in this particular essay that Ai Weiwei wrote for Zhao Zhao; in it, he recounts the various projects that Zhao Zhao and himself have worked on together.
Zhao Zhao is an artist who works across media, incorporating objects, performance, video, and painting into his practice. A significant figure among the young post-1980s generation of contemporary Chinese artists, the artist's work often interrogates his home country’s institutional systems and politics, appearing anti-authoritarian and non-conformist in its ethos.
Zhao’s background has greatly influenced his artistic output. Zhao Zhao was born in 1982, and he grew up in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China's north-western frontier. Graduating with a BFA in Oil Painting from Xinjiang Institute of Arts in 2003, he became Ai Weiwei’s assistant, working with the well-known Chinese artist on documentaries that investigated several major Chinese national events, such as the Sichuan earthquake (So Sorry, 2012) and the imprisonment of Chinese dissidents (Disturbing the Peace, 2009).
In 2011, after Ai's well-publicised arrest in Beijing, Zhao struck out on his own as an artist, his time with Ai influencing the subversive and often provocative nature of his subsequent work. The sculpture Officer (2011), for example, is an enormous statue of a police officer shattered into pieces, possibly referencing the idea of a broken police force or overthrown power, or querying ideas around freedom of expression. Insofar as the statue’s face resembles the artist’s face, the work also arguably speaks to the vulnerability and powerlessness of an artist to make an impact on the world. Created after Ai's arrest, Officer is a juxtaposition of power and powerlessness. In 2012, the work was confiscated by the Chinese customs police while in transit for a scheduled solo exhibition of Zhao's work in New York.
Zhao’s interest in the impact of violent force on objects, which can also be glimpsed in Officer, has its origins in a car accident he had in 2007, in which he hit his head on the windshield of a car. Preserving the glass, Zhao referenced its form to create the ‘Fragments’ series, ongoing since 2007, that includes sculptures in steel, gold, and bronze, and are made from irregular fragments that radiate from the centre in a manner reminiscent of shattered glass. Another ongoing series with a similar concept is ‘Constellations’ (since 2013), which takes the form of glass panels featuring holes and cracks made by gunshots. The series also consists of paintings depicting shattered glass, hyperrealistically rendered in a limited colour palette of Prussian blue, Van Dyck brown, and white, such as those exhibited in Zhao’s solo presentation Zhao Zhao: Constellations II at Chambers Fine Art, New York, in 2015.
The year 2015 also marked the start of two important projects for the artist. One involved the artist completing 20 oil paintings (each 35 x 27cm) of himself over a two-year period, each presenting the same composition of the artist’s head and shoulders slightly in profile with hand placed dejectedly on chin, and staring blankly into space. Presented in 2017 at Lin & Lin Gallery in Taipei, the portraits become increasingly executed in looser and darker tones as the series progresses. Project Taklamakan (2015–2016), on the other hand and in marked contrast, involved the artist and a team of 30 people traveling 100km to connect a refrigerator in Beijing to a power source in the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, which flanks the country’s north-west border. In October of 2017 in a follow-up to this marathon effort, the artist bought a camel and its keeper from Xinjiang to appear at Tang Contemporary in the artist’s aptly named solo exhibition, Desert Camel. Project Taklamakan appears to poke fun at Beijing’s geo-political manouverings in the region, including those relating to President Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); however, it is equally a very personal exploration of self, Zhao’s journey to Xinjiang marking the first time in ten years the artist had visited his home region. Conversely, the portraits, in regard of the context of Zhao’s wider practice, are arguably not only expressions of self-analysis, but equally reflect a wider social sense of helplessness.A contrast in approaches appears to mark the artist’s practice generally, with it swinging deftly between subtle subversion and full-frontal provocation, and the personal and the political. The ‘Sky’ series (ongoing since 2009), for example, includes semi-abstract paintings that depict deep-blue skies with swirls of colours. Based on the polluted skies of Beijing, the 'Sky' paintings appear to be poetic renderings of nature’s beauty, but in the colours used they reference China’s state of pollution. The photographs and video from Zhao’s performance Slap and Secret Love, Leather Shoe and Family (2014), on the other hand are more directly confronting. In these videos, the artist slaps a volunteer, stabs artist Sun Yuan in the back, gifts a volunteer with the knife used to stab Sun, and finally spends 15 hours with a family until he is asked to leave.
Tang Contemporary Art Hong Kong is proud to announce the opening of Beijing Artist Zhao Zhao's all-new exhibition One Second–One Year at H Queen's. This is Zhao's second solo exhibition with Tang Contemporary Art in Hong Kong after Zhao Zhao (2016). Curated by Barbara Pollack, professor of School of Visual Art, New York, this exhibition explores aspects of time and the way time alters our perception of the artworks on view.
The heart of the exhibition are Zhao Zhao's One Second drawings and One Second paintings, works that establish a dialogue about depictions of time. To create the One Second drawings, the artist held in one hand ten pencils and within one second marked a piece of paper with a grouping of lines. From these spontaneous works, he then went about meticulously translating the hyper-realistic image onto canvas in oil paints, a process that took almost a year to complete. The pencil drawings and the oil paintings instill different sensations in the viewer. The pencil drawings encapsulate a visceral loss of control where Zhao Zhao acts on subconscious motivations to make a set of almost violent markings on white paper. In contrast, the oil paintings evoke a meticulous process, employing the ultimate restraint to achieve a verisimilitude of momentariness.
Zhao Zhao's Jade Constellations add to the original Constellations by introducing a new element - circles of jade - into the holes in the glass. For about 5,000 years, jade has been the most precious element in Chinese culture, cherished by Imperial dynasties and adapted as a ritual object. To create these works, Zhao Zhao searched for jade elements at their source in Gansu Province, uncovering examples that were centuries old. By adding these jade circles or bi to his glass works, he is introducing the notion of time into the artworks, transforming them from spontaneous gestures into reflections on ancient rituals. Suddenly, the Constellations are no longer about contemporary politics but are also reflections on 5,000 years of history.
In addition to the Jade Constellations, Zhao Zhao will include recent oil paintings and one tapestry on silk from the Constellations series. For the paintings, he has an uncanny ability to evoke the presence to shattered glass, even when we see we are staring at a canvas. In his typical use of Prussian blue on a white background, these paintings demonstrate his superlative skill as a draftsman, able to replicate any material in oil paints, no matter how complicated. Taking this practice to a new level, Zhao Zhao has added a new "Constellation," in which the image of fractured glass is rendered in intricate embroidery on silk. So exacting is this rendition that, again, it can convince viewers that they are seeing splintered shards of glass when on closer inspection it is clear that the composition is comprised of minute stitches of thread.
In these works, Zhao Zhao again reflects on the passage of time, using an image that had to be created in an instant as the basis for works that are durable and eternal. Contemplating these images, it is impossible to resist the notion that violence - an explosive disruption of time - may be an eternal condition, ever replicating itself in various manifestations every minute of every day. Or it could mean that even the most spontaneous act can be reevaluated and controlled, at least in the hands of a sophisticated artist. In either case, these are artworks of magnificent beauty, achieving stunning effects through the most painstaking process. At the minimum, we are in awe of Zhao Zhao's achievement, ever contemplating the time it took for him to create these results.
We have sent you an email containing a link to reset your password. Simply click the link and enter your new password to complete this process.
Scan the QR Code via WeChat to follow Ocula's official account.