Oxo Tower Wharf,
South Bank London,
26 October – 6th November 2016 (11am – 6pm daily)
Private View: Thursday 27th October, 6:30 – 8:30pm
Press Preview: 4 – 5pm
0.064g is an exhibition of new work by Meng Zhou, on view at gallery@oxo on London’s Southbank 26th October – 6th November 2016. Curated by Yusi Xiong, this is the artist’s first solo exhibition in London. Featuring sculpture, painting, mixed-media work and video installation, the show presents alternative concepts for thinking about the individual’s relationship with both social and ecological environments, striking a balance between private and public, micro and macro – through the intriguing exploration of silk and cocoon.
Zhou is of a generation that has formed its personalities and beliefs during a period of shifting social and economic circumstances, and through a boom in the availability of information and technology. Deeply engaged in the process of artistic creation, the contested notion of metamorphosis, and the becoming of oneself within a social environment, the artist consistently presents his distinct poetic and imaginative sensibility towards introspective concerns – which he has described as “being incubated and oppressed at the same time.”
0.064g collects these viewpoints and theories, on one hand presenting the artist’s personal narratives, mythologies and specific phenomenology, on the other representing the exploration of individual choices and potential within society through the notion of cocoon.
The title “0.064g” emerged out of the artist’s own fascination with silkworms, being the average weight of the cocoons created by some 50 silkworms he observed in the conceptual development of this new body of work. An educational activity in southern China remembered fondly from his upbringing, Zhou’s subsequent studies, theories and critical understandings have now imposed a new perspective on these miniscule objects.
“To spin a cocoon a silkworm must weave its delicate filament into a strong and protective shelter. To the artist, the cocoon, once constructed, both filters the view from outside and limits the space within. Each fibre of silk that forms the cocoon is at once delicate and fragile yet tensile and strong. Woven in such a way that complicates the notion of a simple start and end point, the cocoon – an endless network of links and bindings – acts both as a shield and as an incubator. And yet, while the cocoon seems claustrophobic and oppressive, it is also a site of metamorphosis and becoming.
“Each strand of silk is a fragment of information, a trace that is capable of outliving its creator by millennia. Existing in the contemporary world, within manifold layers and networks of information, we experience a parallel condition to the chrysalis – surrounded by negotiated truths or breaking through to encounter endless possibilities.” Yusi Xiong, Curator
Quantifying these cocoons by their weight is, therefore, a deliberate simplification, a foil to the complex ideas at play throughout the exhibition, and their various implications.
“Loner” (2016) is a continued series of ink wash paintings featuring a cast of anonymous characters. Alone, they are captured in motion within monochromatic spaces, interacting with strands of silk. Their facelessness opens up ambiguous narrative possibilities. With soft contrast, they reaffirm the balance between real and imaginary that exists within Zhou’s work. While Zhou’s technical command of his medium recalls classical East Asian brush strokes, and while the fluidity of his lines also evokes stylistic pointers such as Egon Schiele and Jenny Saville, his compositions elude interpretive strategies in traditional ink wash paintings. The solemn yet playful mood, juxtaposed with a lack of context, lends a psychological charge. The blank figure, cocooned within the frame, becomes a broader manifestation of the human condition, at once satirical and contradictory.
In the video works Bamboo·Yuan (2016) Crowd·Xiang (2016), and two further Untitled works shot in a factory, Zhou re-enacts narratives charged with poetic allusions to themes of being, loneliness, and time, to those of deconstruction, evolution and transformation of people and their surroundings.
They continue the artist’s interest in the constant living spirits within the shifting environments of Shanghai and his hometown, Shaoxing, Zhejiang.
Borrowing from film noir, his work incorporates idiosyncratic observations and wry details encountered in the everyday, where fantasy and the real meet to negotiate truth, beauty, and desire. The videos act like a billboard or capsule, in which a landscape of time, compression and process is reflected, providing a new perspective to view both the worlds of within and exterior – creating a dialectic which is both spatial and temporal.
While seemingly simple, aesthetically beautiful and affective, the works of Meng Zhou are intricately weaved and layered within this exhibition, and the work’s referential ambiguity allows for open, wide-ranging interpretations. Deconstructing classical modes of painting – both Chinese and Western – with modern techniques, Zhou gives a degree of autonomy to his medium, whether working in ink, paint or sculptural materials, while simultaneously representing the malleability of his subject, affirming the medium’s resilient ability to provide a space for introspective meaning.