HomePage Artists

Zhang Kechun Biography

Zhang Kechun was born in 1980 in Sichuan, China, and started painting when he was a child. He studied art and design and on graduating he worked as a designer in Chengdu before becoming interested in photography.

Read More

In 2010, Kechun decided to undertake a trip along the length of the Yellow River. Inspired by the novel River of the North by Chengzhi Zhang, Kechun wanted to experience the river's 'overwhelming fatherly presence in the country.' The project took him on a two-year journey along the river from the coastal flats of Shandong in the east to the mountains of Qinghai in the west. He completed the journey on a fold-up bicycle, all the while carrying with him a large format Linhof camera. The photographs he took along the way comprise his first series 'The Yellow River'.

'The Yellow River' documented the effects of modernisation along the third longest river in Asia, which is also known as Huang He. The Yellow River is considered the cradle of Chinese civilisation, often called the 'Mother River', but is also considered a threat, capable of breaking its banks anytime. The areas surrounding the river have been devastated by flooding in recent years and Kechun's photographs capture the emotional impact of this on the local population with an eerily quiet atmosphere. The river constantly dwarfs the people who rely on it, rendering them vulnerable to its might. Kechun writes 'along the way, the river inundated my mind with the stream of reality. With a profound sense of pessimism, I felt that the river, which was once full of legends, had disappeared.'

Influenced by Alec Soth's Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Kechun finds desolation in the human artefacts left after their owners have moved on. The huge weight of the nation's history, stretching from the birth of the ancient civilisation to its modern industrial expansion, seems to squat on his shoulders as he navigates the landscape with the camera. Kechun's emptied out, muted scenes hum with melancholy for a lost landscape. 'I wanted to photograph the river respectfully', Kechun has said, 'it represents the root of the nation'. Whilst the project was not intended to confront environmental issues in the same way that Nadav Kander did so in his work on the Yangtze River, Kechun found that ecological matters became unavoidable. 'I started off wanting to photograph my ideal of the river, but I kept running into pollution,' he has said, 'I realised that I couldn't run away from it, and that I didn't need to run away from it.'

Kechun's works are quietly beautiful and hugely atmospheric, using a soft and subtle colour palette. Whilst Kechun imbues the altered landscape of China with a tragic beauty, his photographs are also hugely witty, showing the frequently absurd scenarios in which the inhabitants of the river's surroundings find themselves.

Kechun won the Discovery Award at Les Rencontres d'Arles for 'The Yellow River' in 2014. Working with the agency Most, Kechun also undertakes editorial and advertising commissions. He won the National Geographic Picks Global Photo Contest in 1998 and was shortlisted at the World Photography Awards in 2013. He has been exhibited at Photoquai, Paris; the Beijing Photo Biennale and the Delhi Photo Festival, India.

Text courtesy Huxley-Parlour.

Zhang Kechun Featured Artworks

Three Gorges Dam by Zhang Kechun contemporary artwork
Zhang KechunThree Gorges Dam, 2014Archival pigment print, three sizes available
Huxley-Parlour Contact Gallery
Road to Mine by Zhang Kechun contemporary artwork
Zhang KechunRoad to Mine, 2015Archival pigment print, three sizes available
Huxley-Parlour Contact Gallery
Abandoned Boats by Zhang Kechun contemporary artwork
Zhang KechunAbandoned Boats, 2017Archival pigment print, three sizes available
Huxley-Parlour Contact Gallery
Waterfalls by Zhang Kechun contemporary artwork
Zhang KechunWaterfalls, 2019Archival pigment print, three sizes available
Huxley-Parlour Contact Gallery
Buddha Statues by Zhang Kechun contemporary artwork
Zhang KechunBuddha Statues, 2019Archival pigment print, three sizes available
Huxley-Parlour Contact Gallery
Waterfalls by Zhang Kechun contemporary artwork
Zhang KechunWaterfalls, 2019Archival pigment print
43.25 x 35.5 inches
Huxley-Parlour Contact Gallery

Zhang Kechun Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Zhang Kechun, Zhang Kechun: New Work at Huxley-Parlour, London
Closed
17 October–14 November 2019 Zhang Kechun Zhang Kechun: New Work Huxley-ParlourLondon

Zhang Kechun Represented By

Zhang Kechun In Ocula Magazine

Bangkok Art Biennale Escapes Lockdown Ocula Feature Bangkok Art Biennale Escapes Lockdown By Rémy Jarry, Bangkok

The second Bangkok Art Biennale brings together 217 artworks by 82 artists from 35 different countries across 10 venues in the capital.

Fade out copy.
Read More

Zhang Kechun In Related Press

Working on history: Contemporary Chinese Photography and the Chinese Revolution Related Press Working on history: Contemporary Chinese Photography and the Chinese Revolution 2 November 2017, ArtAsiaPacific*

The group show Working on History at Museum für Fotografie (Museum for Photography) in Berlin was an ambitious undertaking that examined 20th-century history, particularly that of China, through the photographic lens. With a stunning assemblage of 18 artists and helmed by renowned museum director Ludger Derenthal, CAFAM director Wang Huangshen...

Fade out copy.
Read More

Sign up to be notified when new artworks and exhibitions by Zhang Kechun are added to Ocula.

WeChat

Scan the QR Code via WeChat to follow Ocula's official account.

Scan to follow Ocula on WeChat.
;