Zhang Huan

In Shanghai we took the van into the deep suburbs to visit Zhang Huan in his new studio complex.   The gates opened and there was a camera crew to record our arrival.   We were taken first to a large, long space, as large as the Turbine Hall, where he was showing a monumental work based on a photograph of Mao and party officials, infinitely mournful, in ash, the lost dreams of his parents’ generation and of his youth.   it was hard to tell whether it was political or merely nostalgic.   Philip quoted Susan Sonntag.  

Next, we saw a room of works based on braille, again the idea of a mute language, again in ash.   The third large gallery consisted of a series of works made out of medicinal herbs:  photographs of family life from Zhan’s youth, half preserved, emerging from fields of leaves.   After a room of peasant wood carvings and a small chapel of more lyrical bird paintings, we walked into the Central Hall, filled with the hammering of workman and their blow torches, constructing a monumental bronze piece commissioned by a collector in Taiwan.


Beyond was a gallery with a mechanical Confucius and a construction of hides and carcases.   Death, decay and melodrama on an epic scale.


So, we wandered round in the late afternoon sun admiring his collections of monkeys and tombs.



5 thoughts on “Zhang Huan

  1. I found your blog almost by accident, following a link in an email from the National Art Collection. Your descriptions of new art museums in Shanghai was fascinating to me as, in late April, I am travelling to Shanghai and then south to Ningbo to be artist-in-residence there until mid-July. Also I saw an exhibition of the ash ‘paintings’ of Zeng Fanzhi in the Art Gallery of Ontario in the summer of 2012.
    I will note the names of the galleries in Shanghai though I don’t know whether I will have time to visit them.

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