On view at the White Cube in London, until the 26th of August, the exhibition “Mountain is still a mountain”, by critically acclaimed Chinese artist Zhang Huan.
hang lives and works in Shanghai and was made known in the 1990s as a performance artist, utilizing his own body as an artistic medium. Nowadays, he approaches his artistic intentions mainly through photography and sculpture.
The third exhibition of the artist in London showcases twenty, large-scale, monochromatic pieces, made of incense ash that was gathered from Buddhist temple ceremonies in Shanghai. The result is rather radiant and delicate, while the medium itself suggests that the desirable goal does not consist of mere documentation.Nor is it about the depiction of a glorious past, as with equal care the artist treats portraits of prominent public figures and common people of the Chinese past, alongside seascapes and historic scenes.
[quote align=”right” color=”#b64736″]The same way Zhang used the body as indicative of the spirit in earlier performance artworks, such as the “12 Square Metres”, he is now exploring, through ash photographs, the connection between the tangible and the highly spiritual and elusive.[/quote]That final message, projecting a journey of the soul rather than simple realistic/ naturalistic moments, although not as direct as in his controversial performance pieces, excludes any affinity for the past, thus bringing his art back to the contemporary.
In the end, there is no nostalgia, political commentary or even mountains detected in his work, but only powerful, captivating images and a philosophical theory reflecting the Bhavachakra cycle, as described in Hanshan’s Cold Mountain poetry of the Tang dynasty period:
When people look for the road in the clouds
The cloud road disappears
The mountains are tall and steep
The streams are wide and still
Green mountains ahead and behind
White clouds to east and west
If you want to find the cloud road
Seek it within
20 July 2012 – 26 August 2012, White Cube South Galleries, Bermondsey
Admission: FREE www.whitecube.com
Photo: Kite Call, 2008, 63 x 98 7/16 in. (160 x 250 cm), Ash on Linen, © The Artist
by Marw Kouvatsou