Zhao Yao: Breathing the Universe

2022. 01. 12-03. 05

As much as the phrase of "breathing the universe", imprinted by Li Guangchen in 1626 at the Cliff of Grand View on the top of Mount Tai, points explicitly at the collective sense of absorbing all the creatures in the universe, Zhao Yao's latest solo exhibition at Beijing Commune aims to present a spiritual roaming site that gives the birth to the shared experience with which the cultural and individual's conceptual understandings constantly intertwine. 


As the carrier of memory and conception, "Scenery" tends to investigate the discourse of aesthetic deliberately yet also with the sense of humor by contextualizing the subtle gaps between text and reality, rhetoric, and hermeneutics. Specifically speaking, Zhao Yao selects from his collection of a broad range of colorants codes, which have been systematically put into use by various colorants manufacturers at home and abroad, the ones with the most pictorial connotations. Encapsulated within the seven-inches transparent plastics bags, which play the role of the postcards, traded as products for sale, are the mixtures of colorants with each color’s liquid volume accurately dispensed based on the system manipulated by the manufacturers. Each of the postcards is wrapped in a paper bag, customized by Zhao Yao, with the literal title and the coded number printed on the cover. They are neatly inserted into a total of nine wooden boxes that are fixated onto the walls of the exhibition space. Drawing out and flipping through those cards give the viewers the experience of simultaneously viewing painting and photography. Such repetitive acts with the means of intervention, therefore, open the space for the viewers to constantly linger on not only the text-based imaginations but the re-examination and re-interrogation of the very concept of scenery. As our corporeal bodies have been highly restricted in the light of pandemic, Zhao Yao intends to endow the exhibition space which is itself fixated with a heightened sense of uncertainty by presenting not simply “the accuracy” inherent in the dispenser of colorants, the “exploitation” explicit in the consumer culture, but our educated understanding of aesthetics which could, in turn, be shown in sharp contrast to the uncertainty contributed to the materiality of colorants. And it is precisely because the postcards are inexhaustible as products, unique as individuals for the way the colorants are mixed is irreproducible itself, that the logic in the consumer culture of permanently meeting the high demand and desire of customers could be shed the light on.


As the other piece by Zhao Yao, “A Bed Sheet from the Countryside" is also made to provide a perceptual viewing experience that arouses in the viewers the attempt to assemble a whole from collected fragments. This piece not only overspreads the gallery space but also stretches itself to the backyard. Viewers are invited to wander and linger on it, fully assimilating with it through tangible touches. For this piece, Zhao Yao borrowed the hand-woven sheet, particularly collected from the Wugong County in Shaanxi Province from his previous work “A Painting of Thought”, to continually give the bed sheet the capacities of growing, expanding, and re-connecting.