Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on May 24, 2014 of Zhao Zhao: Uncertainty. For his third exhibition at Chambers Fine Art Zhao will present two groups of works, paintings of preserved duck eggs and an installation utilizing Buddhist stupas dating from the Ming dynasty and earlier. Although Zhao Zhao adheres rigorously to his credo of never repeating himself, his diverse body of work is united by an attitude that might be described as simultaneously irreverent and respectful of the past.
Zhao Zhao has gained a certain notoriety through the critical edge of his early objects and the political aspects of his magnum opus so far, the monumental 2011 sculpture Officer. At the same time he has produced works such as Again, 2012, exhibited at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), that show a deep respect for aspects of traditional Chinese religion and culture, however drastic the measures he takes to preserve them might seem.
Again, now part of the Ullens’ permanent collection, is a large cubic form made from blocks of stone carved from fragmentary Buddhist sculptures from which the remaining projecting parts have been cut off. However, this monumental stone cube resembles other works of minimal sculpture only in its superficial aspects.
In contrast, the Buddhist stone stupas that Zhao Zhao has gathered in Uncertainty are presented in essentially unmodified form although the separate stones that are piled on top of each other require external support in the form of metal scaffolding, wooden beams, rebar, rope etc. to prevent them from toppling over. For Zhao Zhao these deeply symbolic forms, propped up and rather forlorn in their new context, find parallels in Chinese society today in which uncertainty has replaced the philosophical, religious and even political certainties that used to prevail. Removed from their original settings and displayed in such a tenuous state, the stupas have been drained of their ability to inspire quiet mediation, although the beauty of their forms and the powerful response they evoke in the viewer is equally as profound.
In complete contrast to the stupas, in a new series of intimate paintings Zhao Zhao takes as his theme the duck eggs salted in brine or damp salted charcoal that are a favorite Chinese foodstuff. As with many aspects of life in China, these humble eggs have a long provenance, records for preparing them having been found dating from the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). In addition, the deep orange - red color of the yolks makes them perfect symbols for the moon in Chinese moon-cakes.
However, Zhao Zhao wears his learning lightly and the sequence of small paintings in which slices of salted duck egg float on an inky black background is endearingly absurd. Here another kind of uncertainty prevails, speculation as to the meaning of this unexpected presentation of a frequently encountered delicacy that is consumed without thinking. In the rush to modernity, the superficial pleasures of consumerism have resulted in mindless destruction and heedless forgetfulness of more traditional values and ways of thinking.
As the visitor moved between the gallery of salted duck eggs and the forest of stupas, the impressions formed and questions raised in one gallery inevitably affect his/her experience in the other. There is a riddle to be solved, it seems, but it is up to the visitor to find the answer! The artist can only point the way.