2015

    • Date
      2015.03.21 - 2015.05.17
    • Artist
      Zhuang Hui
    • Curator
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Zhuang Hui Solo Exhibition

Seeking out, observing, and discovering are central to Zhuang Hui’s activities for art. Mechanisms that feed both the content and form of his expression and enable him to keep his ideas fresh. The activities often take the form of physical journeys. Since his first trip made by bicycle across the Northwest region in 1990, this has become a practice he maintains, taking inspiration from journeys across China as well as through South-East Asia, and, still too, evidence of a preference for travel, by the most pedestrian means. Life experience is the essence of Zhuang Hui’s art.
   
This was demonstrated in 2014, almost twenty-five years after his first bicycle trip, with a project that brought Zhuang Hui’s original journey – physical, spiritual and artistic– full-circle. As the 1990 trip was a journey towards a beginning, the 2014 excursion was a journey towards an ending. Returning to the Northwest region, to the metaphorical site of his birth as an artist, Zhuang Hui brought four major installation works created between 2008 and 2012 – several in collaboration with his partner, the Shaanxi-born artist Dan Er from Yulin, and consigned them to eternity, metaphorically and physically, by transporting them from his studio to a secret site just inside the Gobi Desert – secret because Zhuang Hui has vowed never to reveal them to anyone.
 
In September 2014, Zhuang Hui set off from Beijing on a journey of several thousand miles that delivered the works to a spot as far from human settlement as it was possible for his team to locate. Here, on the vast gritty fringe of the Gobi the installations were unloaded and set to rest. The team, the trucks and Zhuang Hui then departed, leaving the works to posterity; for whoever may chance upon them to enjoy as long as the materials last before perishing under the force of the elements. It may take many years for some of the pieces, especially 11 Degree Incline, a full-scale replica of the famous arch from the Great Fountains that were part of the original 19th century Summer Palace in Beijing, cast in steel. Zhuang Hui’s team were witness to this force as they installed the works. When the largest installation 11 Degree Incline was unloaded, a sudden dust storm carried off to the horizon a column from another work which was already set in its resting place – the 2012 installation Untitled. They could but watch as the column rolled across the plain on its own journey into a new and unknown place of existence.
 
After their task accomplished, the team departed, pausing only to complete a mural painting on the wall of a crumbling house in a vacated village. This memorial to the two trips, 1990 and 2014. The location of the mural painting is very special to Zhuang Hui as it is close to the home of artist Mo Lili, a girl who he and his companion befriended in 1990. In the intervening decades, as families relocated, this home had fallen into ruin along with the village. What remains there in the desert now is retained alive most exquisitely in the imagination and speaks poignantly of immortality and endurance, of discovery and myth. However, providing future archaeologists with a mystery to solve was not Zhuang Hui’s aim. This act was instead a conscious desire for release through a defiant act of expression towards the meaning of art today and its ability to endure or to find meaning in our ever more materialist society.
 
Zhuang Hui’s journey is captured here in a rich visual documentation of the project especially configured for the OCAT Xi’an exhibition space.


About the Artist

Zhuang Hui was born in Yumen, Gansu Province in 1963, and he learned his art in the school of life. He currently lives and works in Beijing.

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