These are two works that introduced me to Chinese painter Xu Zhen, one of 15 artists whose works are included in “What about the Art? Contemporary Art from China“, an exhibit at the Al Riwaq Gallery in Doha, Qatar through July 16. Even from a distance, the creamy textures made me crave cake-like flowers dripping with sugary frosting. If I could bake a cake for my mom today, it would look something like this. With a handful of real edible flowers added to the mix and touch of chocolate.
According to the gallery literature, these are patterns typical of Xu Zhen’s signature works, “Under Heaven”, which are created with oil paints squeezed onto canvases through pastry bags and preserved in all their rich, layered, colorful decadence.
Described as one of the more prolific and successful artists of China’s current generation, Xu Zhen (born 1977) has become notable in the contemporary art world as much for his work as for his brand, MadeIn Company, which a museum employee summarized as one that’s always pushing the envelope. In China, that’s a challenging and complicated task, a balancing act he’s managed since becoming, at age 24 in 2001, the youngest Chinese artist to participate in the Venice Biennale.
Prolific is a word that has been used to describe Xu Zhen since long before he founded his shadow organization [MadeIn Company]. Born in 1977, living and working in Shanghai for the majority of the time since then, Xu came of age in the 90s, before the Western art world’s gold rush on China. He has worked in many mediums — video, performance, sculpture, painting, ceramics — and beyond making work he has instigated a range of activities as a curator, writer and catalyst for infrastructures. He was a co-founder with Davide Quadrio of the BizArt Art Centre in Shanghai in 1998, a lab for funding fringe exhibitions by young local artists through its creative services for hire. Then in 2006 he helped create Art-Ba-Ba, a website that remains one of China’s most active and influential forums for the discussion of contemporary art.
A bit more from the exhibit, mostly more photos and a bit of video, coming later in the week both here and on Piran Cafe’s Facebook page.
And for the record, today’s Pic du Jour, the site’s 856th straight, was snapped on 7 May 2016 in Doha, Qatar and posted from Istanbul Ataturk Airport.