GANG ZHAO PAINTINGS
SEPTEMBER 13TH – OCTOBER 22ND, 2016
OPENING RECEPTION SEPTEMBER 13TH, 6 – 8 PM
Tilton Gallery is pleased to present new paintings by Gang Zhao from September 13th to October 22nd. This will be the artist's third solo show with the gallery. A reception for the artist will be held Tuesday, September 13th from 6 to 8PM.
Gang Zhao was an early participant in the controversial avant-garde Stars Group that showed in Beijing in the 1970s when the artist was still less than twenty years old. Educated in Holland and the United States, Zhao’s work combines both Eastern and Western influences and encompasses elements and sensibilities from both worlds to explore his world view. Zhao has continued to paint increasingly poignant figurative works that are at once lyrical and based on intellectual roots.
Zhao was born in Peking, China in 1961. He lived for over twenty years in the United States, moving back to Beijing in 2006. He attended the State Academy of Fine Art, Maastricht, Holland, and Vassar and Bard Colleges. He has exhibited widely in China and Europe as well as in the US. Museum exhibitions include those at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Santiago, Chile, the Suzhou Museum, Suzhou, China, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China, and the He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China, among others. He currently lives and works in Beijing.
Zhao describes his process and relationship with painting:
Very often I have felt that I am not making a painting, but instead working away from making a painting—breaking down my knowledge of painting. A painter’s painter, I am not painting for the audience, but instead for the people who can see the passage to painting, who do not simply search for the message. While exploring this passage, I am constantly changing directions. I pursue a hermeneutics of the bare existence of image, exploring any and every direction that comes to mind. I make paintings about painting, in a way of being absent, but not in the way of mere abstraction. I am an absentee, not present, not an active participant in what I am making. I remain empty of individual identity; the forms on my canvas are also empty of identity, constituted only by the process of their creation, abiding by the Buddhist principle of anatman.
Traditionally, painting is like writing poetry—a way of storytelling. Every artist from Edward Munch to Francis Bacon has been inspired by “The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot. As am I. I first read the translation when I was 18. Perhaps it is the world after disaster; perhaps, total destruction. I’ve found that painting can also be a complete destruction, can also totally destroy.
Since I moved back to China 10 years ago, I have had the opportunity to revisit Chinese painting. It interests me because classical Chinese painters were not fixated on realism, but instead on using paint to pursue images. I began applying color to ink painting, and from there found other inspiration. After working with classical imagery for some time, I discovered that what is known as China is actually a conglomeration of so many races, from Arabs to nomads; only a small minority have descended from the Song and Ming. I soon realized there is no way to essentialize the “Chinese” or the “East.” I am not trying to “mix East and West,” but instead using and borrowing from what I see.
Though I am a pursuer of detours, this show’s central avenue is still life and studio easel painting. The nudes and portraits are academic, as if in the classroom. With imagination, everything becomes large, gigantic. A good academy student, I never can get away from my training.
I constantly refuse to make a painting, until I need to make the painting. I often turn my back on the painting, as a composer turns his back on his music. Beethoven felt vibrations along his back as he went deaf; I feel the vibration in canvas, paint, and image. While not looking at the painting, I constantly hope that something will appear when I turn around.