Subjects and Concepts
Zhibo specialized in oil painting during her study in the Chinese Academy of Art in Hangzhou. With natural landscapes, everyday scenarios, daily necessities and humans with blurred faces as common subjects, Zhibo established her remarkably bizarre style by putting subjects, normally at odds, together. The unusual combination and coexistence of subjects, such as a roller coaster rail overshadowing an oriental courtyard, are delicately designed with a sense of discord that takes time and contemplative observation to subtly emerge.
Creating striking features remain a significant part of her work, such as with her project Ecstasy where audiences see the cartoon figure of Mickey Mouse, sculpture heads and a garlic crusher being put together with a shade of light coming from the top. Once Zhibo commented on the choice of subjects in her paintings, she pointed out her focus primarily rests on conceptual consistency. In other words, subjects are not simply arbitrary choices but rather they present a particular combination intending to generate a unique meaning. In her latest exhibition, she adds further intrigue not only about the subjects but also the notion of time and space; continuously traversing normality and absurdity and pushing the edge of reality and imagination.
The Duality of Physicality and Meta-Physicality
Adapted from The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective by Carl Sagan, the title of the exhibition itself spotlights Zhibo’s attempt to challenge the nature and boundaries of human civilisation and to explore its capacity to transcend. The original text goes on, ‘… two of them are so close together that they touch, and starstuff flows between them… we live on one world among an immensity of others’. By presenting an interpretation that injects infinite possibilities to the cosmic void, Zhibo builds a thread that connects trivial Earth to massive outer space, while introducing a macro perspective to appreciate the exhibits.
Such is necessary to keep in mind when viewing pieces like Dancing is Better, a painting featuring a group of tribes that are dancing in the front while two people are doing yoga in the back, with the former representing ancient civilization and the latter implying modernity. Despite coming from two distinctive eras, two groups share a common space in which scattered body parts are on the ground.
In her work Family, the viewer can also see a similar co-existence between tribes and modern people. Zhibo presents a perspective looking at body subjects, pointing out how bodies and gestures serving as the means of direct expression and communication are evident from the primitive age to modern times. This commonality endures time and connects people from all eras, illustrating the metaphysical potential of physical bodies in transcending eras.
Transcendence and Reinterpretation
Zhibo substantiates the notion of transcendence via her very first installations, in which both patterns and materials are hugely connotative. Choosing roadblocks and other utilities from Hangzhou while putting on patterns from the Han Dynasty, she facilitates an actual flow by blending ancient symbols into present subjects, and by literally bringing everyday life objects into a distant exhibition space. Such substantialized flow stimulates a retrospective of everyday encounters and gives new meaning to life, once again proving time and space are not rigid but rather fluid concepts.
By bringing the past and the present together with the ancient and the modern, coexistence of dimensions is a quest leading audiences to arrive at their own final understanding. Zhibo’s works demonstrate powerfully thriving dynamics, reminding the Hong Kong art scene of the growing flamboyance of contemporary Chinese women artists.
‘There is a place with four suns in the sky – red, white, blue and yellow’ (25 August-14 September 2016)
Edouard Malingue Gallery