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Chambers Fine Art
2015.05.15 Fri - 2015.08.22 Sat
Opening Exhibition
04/15/2015 00:00
Red No.1-D Caochangdi Chaoyang District Beijing 100015
+86 010 5127 3298
Opening Hours
Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm
Christophe W. Mao

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Zhao Zhao: Constellations II
[Press Release]

Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on May 15, 2015 of Zhao Zhao: Constellations II. For his third exhibition at the gallery Zhao Zhao presents a new series of oil paintings that develop ideas first explored in Constellations exhibited at Art Basel/Hong Kong and New York in 2013.

Seven years ago Zhao Zhao was involved in a serious motor accident in which his head hit the windshield of the car in which he was traveling. Saving the windshield, he used the pattern of cracks caused by the violent impact of his head on the shatterproof glass as inspiration for Fragments (2007), a slab of steel measuring 26 x 27 x 5 cm assembled from numerous irregular fragments radiating from the center. Small and unassuming in appearance, this object may be seen as the first announcement of Zhao Zhao’s ongoing investigation of the effects of violent intervention on pre-existing forms, whether caused by the impact of a head (his own) on a sheet of glass or by the political forces that may be presumed to have led to the decision to push the monumental Officer (2011) off his pedestal, resulting in an imposing array of scattered fragmentary forms.

The fascination with powerful forces and violent impacts announced in 2007 with Fragments resurfaced in 2013 when he decided to conduct an experiment involving gunshots and glass, a difficult undertaking in China where with very few exceptions private ownership of guns is illegal. Initially, it seems, he was primarily interested in the technical challenges presented by this activity but the scattered bullet holes and radiating cracks were reminiscent of celestial bodies, leading to the generic title Constellations.

Placed on top of each other, the 30 panels were photographed for the cover of the first Zhao Zhao: Constellations catalog, the explosive energy radiating from each bullet hole becoming vastly magnified in the process. Zhao Zhao’s prowess at the shooting range resulted in an image of unimaginable power, suggestive of events that occurred at the beginning of the universe. Furthermore, different configurations could be achieved by changing the sequence in which the panels were stacked. This simple procedure is the origin of the Constellation paintings, the series of works in which Zhao Zhao successfully melds his passion for painting and his inclination to reject it in conceptually oriented objects and activities.

Limiting his palette to Prussian blue, Van Dyck brown and white and using brushes that range in scale from the largest available to the smallest consisting only of two or three wolf hairs, Zhao Zhao creates startlingly beautiful canvases that owe their mysterious allure to the paradoxical nature of the entire undertaking. In contrast to the glass panels in which the holes and cracks are the residue of a series of one-off events at the shooting range, the paintings are painstaking reconstructions of what occurred when bullet penetrated glass. From many thousands of delicate brushstrokes there emerge constellations of pulsating forms that startle with their energy. Cracks double as lines of energy, uniting the scattered forms that emerge from backgrounds of deepest Prussian blue. Other associations are equally apposite. There is a parallel, perhaps, with the movements of primitive lifeforms in the depths of the ocean or a colony of spiders spinning networks of webs of incredible complexity and strength.

Most surprising in the paintings is the delicacy of touch with which Zhao Zhao reconstitutes the visual evidence of the after-effects of glass shattering. Prior to this series of paintings he was more inclined to use a deceptively simple realistic language to clothe his subversive musings. Now as he contemplates the meaning of a significant moment in his life and invests it with a wide range of metaphorical associations, he paints canvases of considerable scale by using a technique appropriate for a miniaturist. As always with Zhao Zhao, the irony of the situation cannot be escaped!