TRANSLATION / Yvette Zhu
Before the system for the dissemination and interpretation of artistic discourse was fully developed, it was often enough to simply put forth a concept and realize it. For young artist Zhao Yao, today’s artists need to autonomously and proactively influence the dissemination of this discourse. Above all, he stresses the importance of these abilities and methods during the creative process.
Zhao Yao has two studios in the Heiqiao studio district. Under his supervision, they have been preparing nonstop for a recent solo show at Pace Hong Kong. The artist promotes his art at the rate of at least one solo show per year: his “A Painting of Thought” (or “Very Clever Painting”) series began in 2011, which also led to the 2011 “I am Your Night”; the latter body of work deals with conceptual painting and sculpture through the flat application of colorful abstract patterns t o floral fabrics. “ A Painting of Thought” a rose from similar conversations around conceptual drawing, but has evolved into a concept in and of itself. Zhao’s abstract patterns, in the spirit of downplaying the constant pursuit of significance in art today, come from the book 1000 Cogitation Games Played by Smart People from Around the World.
The starting point for Zhao Yao’s practice is the circulation and distribution of work within the operating model of commercial art. He believes that having work owned by more collectors is an important component of “A Painting of Thought”—but also needs to legitimize this mind game in the context of contemporary art. Zhao’s strategy is to superimpose layers of meaning at each stage of the exhibition and circulation proccess, particularly at the “consumer” level.
Admitting and incorporating ridicule and defiance is an important part of the game. The circulation of work is an aspect artists cannot control; they are forced to rely on galleries, which don’t necessarily have the reach or interest to connect with collectors who understand the rules of this game. There is no question that “A Painting of Thought” is a star product, with excellent sales records at galleries and art fairs, but Zhao Yao also questions the limits of the repeated consumption of the same concept. The exhibition “You Can’t See Me, I Can’t See You” replicates an exhibition from a year previous, including copies from “I Am Your Night” in the exact same size or at reduced scale, as well original pieces borrowed back from collectors. This does not seem to affect meaning in repeated consumption. Ultimately, the question is how to deal with an invisible system and forge a working method that can test artists’ grasp on the flexibility of its rules and their principles.