When Dust Settles: Recent Works by Su Zhiguang
Exhibition Dates: September 15 – October 29, 2011
Su Zhighuang was born in Guangzhou, China in 1983 and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing in 2009. For his first solo exhibition in New York, Su continues the investigation of dust as a medium that has characterized his work for the last two years.
In the Western world, dust has a wide variety of associations that range from the sonorous verses from the Book of Common Prayer used in funeral services to the “dust breeding “of Marcel Duchamp photographed so memorably by Man Ray. Su’s initial fascination with dust, however, began not with its metaphorical associations but from the daily experience of life in Beijing, a city undergoing rapid modernization. For his recently concluded exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing, Su exhibited three series of works – Dust Tiles, tiles covered with dust collected from 256 locations in the Chaoyang district; Dust Insects and Dust Flowers inspired by Andy Warhol; and Dust Manual, a volume of 46 sketches based on images form the Mustard Seed Manual of Painting, the celebrated 18th century Chinese painting manual.
For the current exhibition Su widens the thematic material of his work to include not only the Chinese imagery that inspired his Dust Manual but botanical illustrations from the iconic Hortus Eystettensis of Basilius Besler first published in 1613. In addition there are references to European architectural manuals and western motifs such as the Adam and Eve of Albrecht Durer.
In his comments on the artist, Wu Jian’an draws a contrast between the Chinese approach to depicting the natural world in which the expression of feeling was the primary goal to the scientific attitude of Besler who recorded the physical appearance and characteristics of plants with extraordinary precision. In this new series of paintings, Su creates a series of imaginary encounters between the East and West, uniting them through the medium of dust. In this instance, dust is not a tiresome product of construction sites that clogs the lungs but an invisible force that creates connections between the most remote locations and phenomena.
Thus through the agency of dust, Chinese waves wash through the openings in a classical Western façade seventeenth century plants emerge from the rocks of a penjing (tray landscape). Tendrils of plants from the Chinese manual wittily conceal the private parts of Durer’s Adam and Eve while fragments of Besler’s flora take the form of Chinese vases. Su’s multi-layered paintings pay respect to the past while imagining how things might have been in a world united by dust.
Chambers Fine Art is a gallery specializing in contemporary Chinese art located in New York and Beijing. It was established by Christophe W. Mao in New York in 2000. Recognizing the need for a gallery that would serve as an authoritative source of information on the latest developments in the rapidly growing contemporary art world in China, Mao named his gallery after Sir William Chambers, the celebrated British architect who was a leading exponent of Chinese principles in garden design in the late eighteenth century. During the first seven years, artists including Lu Shengzhong, Hong Hao, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen had their first solo exhibitions in the USA. Since then artists as varied as Qiu Zhijie, Tan Dun and Feng Mengbo have added different perspectives to the gallery profile. Since 2009 the gallery has occupied premises at 522 West 19th Street, a block that is noteworthy for a concentration of new buildings by Frank Gehry, Shigeru Ban and Jean Nouvel as well as proximity to the High Line, the former elevated railway track that has become a much admired public park. In its tenth year, Chambers Fine Art has become one of the essential destinations for all those interested in the latest and best coming out of China.