Galerie du Monde takes great pleasure in presenting The Realm of the Heart, a solo exhibition of new work by Zhu Yiyong (b. 1957, Chongqing). This exhibition will mark a relationship of over two decades between the artist and the gallery, who first presented his work in 1995. Alongside new paintings that the artist has completed during these two years, the entire space will be transformed with the artist painting the gallery walls for a week prior to the exhibition opening, creating a site specific work in response to the curation of his works in the exhibition space.
This exhibition will showcase more than ten new paintings created in 2016 from Zhu’s series ‘The Realm of the Heart’. This new work is a continuation of a change of practice that occurred almost a decade ago following a serious illness experienced by the artist. In 2008, Zhu felt drawn by a sense that there was an unprecedented crisis of human existence brought about by the destruction of the natural world. This existential realisation saw Zhu shift his focus from expressing the humanistic claim in his work to connecting it with a concern for nature in his painting. Zhu shifted his focus to nature so as to gain a deeper experience of the environment of today’s society.
Some of the paintings on display will be portraits in oil on canvas with landscape backgrounds, with several stunning pencil portraits and the others are landscape paintings. The landscapes are familiar; traffic jams or skyscrapers, but Zhu has a unique ability to use delicate brushstrokes and suggestive grey colours to render a haunting and truthful depiction of the real living environment of the urban Chinese cities, struck by intense pollution while the use of light and a refined, realistic technique gives a sense of dust over each image. The artist achieves this by applying a thin layer of paint over the finished work before creating texture and building up more layers of paint, the effect of which is an emulation of dust. Through the use of light treatments, the artist is able to highlight the gradual change of different layers.
A week before the exhibition opens, Zhu Yiyong will transform the interior of Galerie du Monde by painting the walls of the exhibition space, in addition to the works already hanging on the walls. The resulting site-specific painting will be destroyed once the exhibition has ended.
Zhu Yiyong received critical acclaim early on in his career for his ‘Rustic Realistic painting’ a field in which he is a leading artist. His portraits of rural life in China and delicate use of colour to construct a social commentary became the cornerstone of his work, with his series ‘Memories of China’, featuring Chinese holding up a cat’s cradle in the shape of a red star, winning him critical acclaim in recent years.
While contemporary artists increasingly feel drawn towards a growing art market, Zhu remains true to his personal experience and his personal experience only, as he observes the physical environment of the society he finds himself in, using an avant-garde approach to critique economic growth, sprawling urban society in China, and the destruction of the natural environment.