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Zhao Yao | The Rising Star Of China's Conceptual Art World

Zhao Yao | The Rising Star Of China's Conceptual Art World

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Updated: 29 January 2016
Up-and-coming Chinese artist Zhao Yao combines complexity and uniformity in his highly conceptual, multi-disciplinary practice. In a series of interviews with the Asian art world’s leading figures, The Culture Trip partners with, who talked to Zhao Yao about his career, inspirations and works.


Interview Transcript:

What are the inspirations behind your work, particularly the ‘A Painting of Thought’ series?

Actually almost all of my works are based on our current knowledge and views on art. Based on these understandings, I then begin to formulate the concepts of my works, then for create my works. For example, the geometries and shapes in my paintings are found in a series of games for children. They are in books such as [typical Chinese exercises] that says 600 questions that Harvard students would enjoy, or [games that] the cleverest people in the world should have a go at. They are thinking games to practise logical thinking, but I think the whole format is very similar to the artistic training we receive for abstract art. The fabrics [I pick] are from everyday life, some are made by machines, some are handmade by skilled workers. I combine the two visual elements to create these paintings.


What do you want the audience think about when they see the works? Is there a message that you want to convey?

I think that my paintings would involve all of the audience’s experiences either way, including experience of viewing other artworks, or understanding the art history, and the knowledge that comes with it. These experiences will affect their judgements of my work, and serve as the basis or background before viewing my works. That is to say, it is possible that as you acquire more knowledge about art or came across more artworks. To be honest, it is not my intention to convey a particularly complex message through my artworks. I think that [the audience] only has to make a very simple decision [when they see the works]. That is whether they like, dislike or have no particular feelings of the works. These three categories are good enough for me.


Your paintings are highly abstract and conceptual. How would you describe them?

I think all the elements [of my paintings] are like components of a computer, which are all compacted inside the computer case. It is particularly complex to inside the case, but you cannot separate and take out every one of those components. It is meaningless, because the final product has to resume a very simple presentation. Like a mobile phone, it is very convenient to tab on the monitor, but the mechanism for the phone is particularly intricate. Yet the final product needs to have a simple presentation.


Share with us a project or series of work that is particularly important in your artistic career.

Actually I think that there are a few key projects. For example, the ‘A Painting of Thought’ extended to what was shown at my solo exhibition ‘Spirit Above All’ in Pace London in 2013. That series of work stemmed from the paintings. As you continue to create new works, you will realise that your previous works have become your burden, as well as resources that can be reorganised. This idea was something I would compare as a television soap opera. All the developments at the beginning is to pave ways for later; it becomes increasingly interesting further into the show thanks to the build up early on. They complement each other, but not separate. My thinking is that, for the works I created or the any impact that they incur, or the method of thinking, I could continue adding new element or combining different aspects [from my previous works], and continue to create.




The Culture Trip partners with on a series dedicated to revealing fresh perspectives on Asian art by the art world’s leading figures.