Zhou Wendou began his artistic career in Spain, where he moved to study painting in 1998 and stayed for 10 years. He gradually introduced new mediums to his approach, trying his hand at installation and photography. Eventually, he turned to concentrating on installation. Having honed his skills, he moved back to Beijing, a city in the throes of development.
His city and, more broadly, modern China exert a strong influence on his work. The changes reshaping his country—and the corresponding ramifications for its people, history, and modern culture—feed into Zhou Wendou’s art. His interest in Zen Buddhism—particularly its tenet that everything contains its own opposite—also underscores his work. But viewers would be mistaken to assume that the issues Zhou Wendou confronts are limited to China. We’re all affected by contradictions in human nature and the challenges of living in the 21st century.
Zhou Wendou calls his installation ADHD (2016) after the acronym for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. At once elegant and absurd, it consists of a large chrome sphere whose surface is inundated by a continuous flow of black ink. Windshield wipers, several of which have been placed on the sphere’s surface, also run continuously but seem to be no match for the ever-flowing ink; no sooner do they wipe it away than it once again overruns the small section they have cleared.
The work calls to mind the sense of futility that can underlie the repetitiveness of workaday life. Environmental degradation also comes to mind, since the ink could be read as oil, the sphere as Earth, and the puny windshield wipers our efforts to rein in pollution. As to whether we will ultimately succeed or fail, the contemplative, roiling sculpture remains silent.
“Zhou Wendou: ADHD” is on view at de Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong, Mar. 21–Apr. 23, 2016.