Shan Shui — Alien (160 – 118cm)


Ink and silk

199 × 150 cm

"Shan Shui" is a series of Chinese ink paintings XU ZHEN® began in 2023, capturing his sculptures and installations in the form of Chinese paintings. Coupled with Chinese ink painting as a medium, such products of conceptual art constitute the possibility of a new civilizational relationship. The objects of the paintings are conceptual sculptures created by XU ZHEN® under the banners of a transforma- tion and iteration of civilization symbols as well as a revaluation of cultural values. Shan shui, or landscape painting, is not only a category of Chinese painting, but also a philosophy on life typical of Chinese culture. XU ZHEN® distances shan shui from a depiction of natural scenery, and nudges it towards a reflection on the resonance between contemporary people and the universe. In this series, Chinese painting functions as a constantly self-expanding cultural agitator that coexists with various realities of contemporary shan shui including artificial nature, cloud computing, the Anthropocene, and the biosphere.

By reproducing and transforming the cultural imagery of Chinese scholars' rock, the "Shan Shui - Alien" series seeks to imbue the energy from traditional culture into our conception of the future. Scholars in ancient China used to take naturally formed rocks as aesthetic objects for appreciation, personification, and emotional relation, endowing them with humanistic connotations within the framework of traditional Chinese philosophy. Such ornamental rocks often appeared in Chinese ink paintings as a cultural imagery. XU ZHEN® performs a similar aestheticization and reorganization of rocks to conjure images resembling the facial features of extraterrestrial beings, which, by being unknown, unfamiliar and yet rendered in traditional techniques, unsettle the viewer. From initially being a concrete object with pictographic potential, the rock turns into a representation- al form with artificially endowed meaning, before eventually becoming a vision and metaphor for the future as a result of the use and transformation of traditional civilizations by contemporary thinking.

Shan Shui — Alien (160 – 118cm)

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