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Long March Space
4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District,
Beijing, Mail Box 8503,
Beijing, P.R. China 100015   map * 
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Play Thing
by Long March Space
Location: Long March Space B
Artist(s): ZHU Yu
Date: 3 Apr - 16 May 2010

Know for his conceptual projects that challenge the limits of artistic language, Zhu Yu’s most recent work at the Long March Space sets out from a profoundly different perspective. Reacting to the highly conceptualized nature of contemporary art production in China in recent years, Zhu Yu has chosen to recreate, with exacting patience, highly photo-realistic paintings of the existence and particularities of the matter that remains when all else is stripped away.

In the series “Stain”, Zhu Yu has painted from photographs the dried resin at the bottom of eight teacups. The perspective is always the same, directly vertical over the mouth of the cup, with both the cup and the dried tea stain visible. From filled to empty, a teacup is never completely devoid of matter. The tea stains delicately cling to contours of the cup, its subtleties of color, shading and texture forming a little world at this bottom of this bell-shaped universe.

Aside from the original visual impression of the painting, there is little else that distracts from the image. In contrast to the noise of the exhibition space, the painting surface is completely peaceful, what is able to settle is Zhu Yu’s imagination and research into a particular attitude of viewing. Contemporary art is filled with icons symbols, and concept whose meanings are taken to be correct, if somewhat imprecise. By continually editing out these associations with the materials of personal memory and cultural context, Zhu Yu is able to free himself of the trappings of contemporary art, and the thinking and logic of conceptual painting. Instead, he has returned to the very beginning of image making. Devoid of any visual reference to historical, social and political systems, the paintings nonetheless emit a strong individuality, making visible these still undeveloped recesses of our world.

Compared to the feeling of emptiness given by the paintings of tea stained cups, the series “Pebble” feels more solid. The ancients believed that stones carried within them many lives. The pebble is what remains of all matter in the world, being polished and gradual worn down, it condenses the feeling of the existence of all matter into a corresponding form. It is both an impression of time and space, as well as the material accouterments of our world. The pebble is a metaphorical object for our understanding of form and matter. Its miniscule physicality is similar to that of a Sarira, a life that has been shrunk down to its indestructible essence. At the same time, it is expansive, similar to an ovary from which all life bears forth. All matter is reduced to a pebble; all matter is emitted from a pebble.

The universal condition of the world is that all things return to their remains. In these paintings, Zhu Yu’s sole focus on the details of these remains presents this condition at its most direct and forthright.

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