Magazine article Artforum International

Zhang Hui: LONG MARCH SPACE

Magazine article Artforum International

Zhang Hui: LONG MARCH SPACE

Article excerpt

In a recent conversation, Zhang Hui recounted the story of an early twentieth-century artist who painted a picture of his garden but realized afterward that he had left a tree out of the composition. So he took an ax and chopped down the tree. For Zhang, the act of seeing is likewise a highly subjective act, one that fundamentally affects one's practice. The artist missed the tree, Zhang said, because the composition in the artist's mind had already superseded reality, had erected a selective "blind spot." Eradicating the tree from reality defied traditional ideas of truth, and represented a violent and poetic act against objectivity.

Zhang thought the artist in question was Max Ernst. After our conversation, however, Zhang discovered that the story was about Ernst's father, a domineering patriarch and amateur painter who deliberately omitted the tree from his painting because it created an imbalance in the composition, and then eliminated the actual tree to make thepainting more "truthful," not less so. Suddenly, with a new protagonist, a Surrealist act became nothing more than the belligerence of a reactionary. This subjectivity of narration is also very much part of Zhang's oeuvre. Having trained in theatrical set design and spent many years in performance and theater, Zhang has a particular sensitivity regarding staging and storytelling. In recent years, he has turned his attention toward the flat, two-dimensional world of the painted canvas, but a sense of dramatic space and time emerged in the depicted views of his apartment and its surroundings that made up his recent exhibition, "21st Floor and a Half. …

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