Ancient and Modern China Collide in New Paintings by Zhong Biao
Zhong came of age in China’s modern era. He was born in 1968, eight years before the end of the Cultural Revolution, and 10 years before Deng Xiaoping opened China to global relations. Zhong trained as an artist at the Central Academy of Fine Art, the top school in the country. His studies took him to Beijing, the Chinese capital, which served as the base of power for Mao Zedong, not to mention the imperial leaders who ruled the country before him.
While much of the city’s infrastructure and traditional neighborhoods have disappeared into the maw of demolition and new construction, Beijing remains marked by distinct reminders of its past, including the Forbidden City and the mausoleum that enshrines Chairman Mao’s body. In his art, Zhong concerns himself with this dizzying clash of old and new China, manifested not only physically, but culturally, intellectually, and spiritually.
Journey to the West (2015) exemplifies Zhong’s approach. A cacophony of imagery bursts forth from the center of the canvas as a city forested with skyscrapers rises from the base of the composition. Massive mountains loom over the jade city, all overseen by a seductress-cum-goddess whose face bears a striking resemblance to Buddha. In the midst of this clashing imagery stands a monk—the still point in Zhong’s churning world, and possibly a stand-in for the artist himself. He seems to simultaneously regard the scene and gaze beyond it—a relic of the past, looking into the rapidly unfolding future.
“Zhong Biao: The Other Shore” is on view at Klein Sun Gallery, New York, Feb. 18–Mar. 19, 2016.