Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday Artist: Jiang Zhi

Chinese artist Jiang Zhi, a graduate of the China Academy of Fine Arts, practiced journalism from 1995 to 2005, work that exposed him continually to important sociocultural issues — for example, issues about the body and gender; materialism and mass consumerism; isolation and estrangement; fate, change, and transformation — that he addresses in his art using video, which he favors, and other contemporary media. His use of light, color, and cloth lends an often deeply expressive feeling to Jiang's art that sometimes can seem strikingly at odds with the narrative of the subject matter, especially where Jiang incorporates materials from social events, social media, and public figures such as Mao Zadong and Deng Xiaoping. (See Dun Dongdong's article "Binary System".) Reviewers of his work frequently reference the metaphorical and poetic qualities of  Jiang's art (see Jiang's Corner and Above the white), the latter particularly effective in pointing up the contrasting realities the art underscores, as in, for example, Black SentencesI am your poetry No. 1 and No. 6,  and Jiang's video Fly, Fly, which depicts a hand miming a bird in flight (escaping?), or at least flapping its wings, even though the reality is that it's confined to a cramped space. Some work, such as I am your poetry No. 4, are as unsettling as they are dramatic.

One photographic series that I am particularly drawn to is Jiang's multidisciplinary Love Letters,(2011-2014), in which he contrasts the symbolism of fire and flowers (he used orchids, lilies, roses, sunflowers, and peonies), the real and the illusory, violence and beauty, life and death, the temporal and the ever-lasting. Learning subsequently that Jiang created the series after the 2010 death of his wife, who was just 37, and that his wife's Chinese name meant "Orchid" upsets pre-conceived notions about that symbolism and artistic intent. (Six images from Love Letters are at White Rabbit; click on Portfolio. Additional images may be seen online at M97 Gallery, White Cube, Artsy, My Modern Met, Visual Sundae, and Trendhunter.) 

Jiang's Love Letters was reproduced in the limited-edition volume Jiang Zhi — Love Letters (Thircuir Books, 2015). It also is available in paperback.

Cover Art (Paperback Edition)

In addition to video and photography, Jiang's artistic practice encompasses oil and silkscreen painting, sculpture, and installation.

In the following video, from Kadist Art Foundation, the artist talks about contemporary Chinese art:

Jiang Zhi, interviewed by Xioayu Weng from KADIST on Vimeo.

Jiang Zhi Website (Note: The Website is in Chinese, although there are in Criticism a number of very interesting critical articles or notes about Jiang's art that appear in both Chinese and English.)

Photography of China Website (Images of Jiang's Love Letters are here.)

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