New paintings by Beijing-based artist bridge the gap between ancient ritual and contemporary life.
The Skin of Truth is the title for the latest series of art works from contemporary Chinese artist, Zhang Ji. For the past five years, the Beijing-based painter has explored the dramatic role materialism continues to play in people’s lives in the New China. In The Skin of Truth, the artist examines the vacuum created by global consumerism in modern societies; in doing so, he creates a series of paintings that are at once stunning, contemplative and life-affirming.
After graduating from China’s prestigious Central Academy of Art in 2008, Zhang Ji observed that the rapid pace of life in China’s powerful economy was leaving most people in Beijing with little time for inner reflection or traditional ways of life. As the artist himself felt the pressure of living in a high-speed society, he began to take refuge in his work and to find solace in studying religious architecture imagery from Europe and the Middle East.
In The Skin of Truth, Zhang Ji has intensified his engagement with religious architecture. For each painting, the artist takes a motif from a mosque, synagogue or cathedral and replicates it across the canvas. The patterns are intricate, the paint required to cover the surface is immense and the labor required is demanding. Instead of using a paint brush to execute the work, the artist has thus developed an alternative painting technique – applying paint to canvas with an industrial syringe.
The results are breathtaking: Zhang Ji has created meticulous surfaces that abound in a reverie of pattern, detail and color. If the paintings are visually stunning – creating at once a sense of gravity and a sense of flight – they are also conceptually sophisticated.
“For me,” says the artist, “the ideal result would be if a blind man came in and rubbed their hands over the surface of these paintings, and in doing so, felt as if they had brushed against the flesh of God.” In The Skin of Truth, Zhang Ji has not only produced a unified and unforgettable body of work; but in rendering religious motifs into paint, he also invites contemporary viewers to rethink the possibilities of the medium itself and to reinterpret the past.
The Skin of Truth, Zhang Ji’s latest series of paintings, will be on view at GALLERY@TEMPLE in Beijing from September 19 to October 2nd 2016.
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