2024. 05. 18-06. 29

Beijing Commune is pleased to present “SANLIANZMK”, Zhou Yilun's fourth solo exhibition with the gallery, featuring a series of the artist's recent paintings, sculptures, and installations. The exhibition title is borrowed from the inexplicable English letters on the water shield of the construction boards often employed by Zhou in his art practice. Devoid of literal meanings, repetitive groups of letters lead to a typographic beauty. In the form of unmeaning words or random combi- nations of letters, these patterns are extensively incorporated into everyday consumer products. Familiar yet estranged forms prevail in the artist’s work, shedding light on the complex mechanisms and dynamics underneath the homogeneous spectacles. Seemingly desultory and eccen- tric, Zhou’s work reexamines the relationship between the subject and the surroundings, order and chaos, concepts and practices, and life and art.

Three steps down the dim lane emit faint light from the door through which visitors can squeeze themselves into another narrow trail under the corrugated panel. Four low-rises, casually arranged in the makeshift hall, all seem to have an unimpaired view of the stage on high overlooking the almost shanty town. It would be a wishful thinking. If the viewer ventures into the two-room cabin, they will find no window facing the stage. Yet it is at least plausible to say the reverse: the eccentric sculptures arrayed on the stage have the all-seeing eye into the audience.

Though simply structured with sometimes readymade tripods and plant stands, the sculptures are often lopsided and tilted, chiming in with the mishmash of colors and textures. Some in gaudy wigs and sunglasses, their faces, realistically molded or abstractly executed in a childlike manner, appear less as body parts than carnivalesque masks. However, they barely interact with each other, nor with the viewer. A Parthenon-like expressionlessness bizarrely emerges along the way where the viewer meets all the vacuous eyes—if any—on the life-sized marionette-like figures. It is not a cynical or nihilistic statement mocking the ideal beauty when Zhou refers to these seemingly crude structures as emulation of classical sculpture, but a delirious dream to join. Zhou imagines the sculptures in the Acropolis degrading and evolving, while the cultural-shaping mythologies are strangers to his obsession with the form. In the same vein, the titles of the works in this presentation are randomly taken from a book, the poetic words that spark imagery rather than endow personalities.

Floating on the front layer, dissolving in the middle or inlaid in the back layer, familiar figures of religious icons, modern-day celebrities, and, more recently, cartoon characters are set in an estranged relationship with the often mottled and smudged backgrounds in Zhou’s painting oeuvre. For the artist, the figural ones perform almost identically as the geometric forms and ornamental patterns superimposed on or displayed next to them, creating spatial oddity on the canvas and board. In extreme cases, Zhou leaves hole cutouts on the canvas in blank, yet visually mesmerizing. When attention is driven away by means of careless figure accumulations, it recalls the wry remark on the notion of the referential in discussions of iconoclasm. For the artist, the eye is keen with forms, figural or abstract: in the doorway, the hemisphere window, a symbol of the desire of seeing, whimsically echoes the frisbee-like blue plate on canvas. Keen forms appear in his work in more random ways: drips and splashes of paint, or even existing signs and marks on scavenged boards and tarps.

It is a game between forms and the eye. Nevertheless, significance can be traced through the idea of provenance. For instance, among the similar-looking wall lamps in this exhibition, two are by Charlotte Perriand; the distorted Venus takes shape from a used and discarded silicone mold that the artist collected at a sculpture factory in ZhejiangProvince. The fact that they are from these two places seems to be no surprise when it comes to the current discrepancy between design and reproduction–features that are yet blurred in Zhou’s work when the works randomly punctuate his playful rhythms of form. Images of marble wood and tile flooring unsubscribe the visual patterns from the material; religious and landscape paintings appear as mural wallpaper, as both objects and witnesses of seeing, feeling, inhabitation.

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