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Enigmatic Realm:

Zhou Song Solo Exhibition

13 April - 10 June, 2024

Powerlong Museum (Shanghai, China)


Liang Qin

"Artistic creation is akin to seeking dark sources in the universe’s vast darkness, both mysterious and elusive, yet inherently fascinating. Exploring ways to unearth inner strength in finite lives and pursuing the other shores of the mind have always been the destinations I strive for." Zhou Song is undoubtedly a conventional yet unconventional figure. In 2006, Zhou Song received the First Prize for Graduation Creative Award from the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts with his undergraduate thesis work - The Weeping Soldier. In 2009, he held his first large-scale solo exhibition at the Today Art Museum in Beijing. In 2012, he gradually embarked on studies in the fields of science, cosmology, philosophy, religion, etc. By 2015, he started documenting his contemplation of the universe and devoted himself to writing Cosmic Systems Theory. In 2017, he produced the iconic large-scale work - New Genesis (510x250cm). From 2022 to 2023, Zhou Song completed his international touring exhibition project. The recent solo exhibition at the Powerlong Art Museum in Shanghai focuses on presenting his latest works from the "New Nature series", including his largest work to date - Enigmatic Realm, created between 2022 and 2024. However, the title of the exhibition, "Enigmatic Realm", should be immediately followed by a question mark. Borges mentioned in Shakespeare's Memory that the three faculties of humans: memory, comprehension, and volition, are not merely scholarly fantasies. Undoubtedly, Zhou Song's "New Nature Series" utilizes these three facilities in his works to the greatest extent. Thus, the collision between "Realism" and "Surrealism", and the tension between "stability" and "instability", accumulate within his works. His conceptual framework transcends traditional paradigms, venturing into the exploration of "cosmology" and "anthropology". As if a "philosopher", he first poses a question - Enigmatic Realm? Then, through artistic creation using different media and perspectives, he continuously and dialectically explores, creating bizarre yet cogent "conclusions of contemplation". Painting is more than just depiction; it ventures into the realm of the unknown. "Enigmatic Realm" to "Enigmatic Realm?" serves as an inquiry into an enigma, embodying the irrational mixture of countless truths - the more absurd, the more realistic. In this maze full of stories, with memory as the material and individual understanding as the medium, what uniqueness will each audience generate? That's an intriguing question.

Installation Views

Art and Mind: New Nature, Work by Zhou Song

Zhou Song’s evocative images of the manifestations of thought and perception have evolved through his distinguished career. In his latest work he demonstrates that, as an artist, he has arrived at a fully matured visual representation where the components of nature including idea and physical phenomena unite to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Images of elements of the natural world and inorganic manufactured forms are combined to reveal a new nature where forms are concrete and discrete visual signs conveying the distinctly human activities of walking, thinking, and creating. Zhou does not shy from dealing with the knots of complexity between what we see or imagine we might see and what we think. The project Zhou has set for himself, framing a two-dimensional world from a fully three-dimensional environment, or four-dimensional environment if you count the domain of the human mind, is not one of simple visual puns and art historical references. The influence of biomorphic art, that is the capacity of abstract form to evoke natural phenomena, practiced by the first and subsequent generations of Surrealists is clear. As with the work of Dali, Magritte, Tanguy, and Leonora Carrington what goes on in the human mind when apprehending form and movement is of paramount importance. In the new nature or new knowledge as pictured by Zhou, essential significance is rendered to what we feel, or, what our cognitive processes involve in walking, pondering the meaning of nothing in a black hole, contemplating the bodily acrobatics involved in an escape to the moon, or the conundrum a creative writer or what a visual artist encounters when faced by philosophical Gordian knots. Zhou is clearly fascinated by the paradoxes faced by visual artists in their chosen pursuit of describing the world of physical phenomena and thought. The recurring motif of the pencil, broken in frustration, is combined with symbolic foliage suggesting the English saying, “one can’t see the forest for the trees,” meaning that one can’t see the big picture because one is too focused on the details. The big picture is physically present in The Creator III, Zhou’s monumental work of 2022-2024, where the prostrate artist or perhaps critical writer, is depicted as a fallen and broken profile cut from ice. Zhou in his messaging employs, as did the surrealist and abstract sculptors before him, the inherent qualities of organic and inorganic materials. The inorganic acquires some of the characteristics of the organic as the inflexible twists and turns into knots and the approximation of knots. Likewise, the organic in paintings such as An Escape to the Moon, are manipulated to resemble twisted steel, a reverse conceptualization of the legs and arms in Walking. Zhou’s paintings, combining passages of intense realism with forms that manifest in the cognitive or non-physical world, are executed in a style that obscures the use of the artist’s tools—paint, paintbrush, and pencil. The flat surfaces of the works are in keeping with the overall intent to take the viewer into a new world where ideas are as present as are concrete symbols or signs of nature. In the very act of painting, Zhou challenges the viewer to pass beyond technical expertise in the delineation of objects and focus on what the artist is thinking or dreaming about—a new world with new technologies and novel cosmological perspectives. In a sense Zhou invites us to contemplate or inflate our ideas of the plenitude and nothingness in the metaphorical black hole of the mind. Dr. Alan McNairn (Former Curator of the National Gallery of Canada)



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