Zhou Yilun: Marie Montana

2017. 07. 19-09. 02

Beijing Commune is pleased to announce the opening of Zhou Yilun’s project “Marie Montana,” on July 19, 2017. His first solo exhibition at the gallery, the show presents the artist’s recent paintings and installation works, and will remain on display until September 2.

Zhou Yilun chose “Marie Montana” as the exhibition’s title, a name that seems to evoke a mysterious Western character and imply a certain narrative tendency. But in fact this is not the case: “Marie” is a successful, long-running Chinese art supplies company, responsible for the paint that a young Zhou used most frequently when he was learning to paint. “Montana” on the other hand, comes from a European brand of spray paint that he has been fond of using in his work process in the recent couple of years. Noticing that the company shared its name with the American state of Montana, Zhou used the latter’s Chinese name to translate it. The names of the two art material companies and their translation create a marvelous juxtaposition, just as the structure of Zhou’s recent work leads

words astray from their original meanings.

Unlike many of Zhou Yilun’s recent exhibitions, where the semiotic significance of images is used to play games of parody and deconstruction, the majority of pieces here leave the audience with no footholds from which to grasp at symbolic meaning. From the perspective of working method, Zhou is intent on destroying the idea of a specific image on the canvas. For example, he takes pieces from a few years ago and continues to use them: he crumples or stuffs the canvas from behind, creating an agitated, uneven surface, or simply scrapes the original painting off the canvas and uses Styrofoam to form a new composition. The original image on the canvas may be obliterated, covered, or distorted and rendered unrecognizable, with found objects often added to create vague forms or colors leading to intriguing dialogues or contrasts. The discernible people or objects of the original paintings become mysterious groupings of volume, color, and lines. Yet when presented alongside simple and clear titles, surrendering to these pieces’ inexplicability also doesn’t seem like a satisfying solution to the riddles they pose.

A similar logic is expressed in the exhibition’s installation pieces: indistinct Styrofoam shapes take on the attributes of sitting or sleeping people when paired with found objects such as clothing, wigs, and glasses. Although an assemblage entitled “Unfinished Lamp” has the external characteristics of an electronic product, it actually cannot turn on and illuminate anything. These works attempt to escape from an experienced audience’s plans for understanding them, instead inviting viewers to enter an egalitarian, more playful and imaginative game of material, color, and pattern.

So that he can handle them while working independently in the studio, the majority of Zhou Yilun’s paintings are mounted on lightweight aluminum frames, and most installations are housed in custom-made, lightweight boxes, which are integrated into the exhibition display. These materials also are marked with traces of their use, like a natural language occurring through the process of the works. The building materials and construction methods used to divide up the exhibition area bring to mind an under-renovation living space. Some of the walls look as if they are being demolished, and there are stains of spray paint on the floor. A fruit plate hangs against white tiles, the attached stainless steel balls bringing to mind bathroom or kitchen facilities. Indeed, this work once hung on the white tiles of the kitchen in Zhou’s studio. In contrast to the historical approach of the works, Zhou prefers to place them in the imaginary of daily life—and perhaps this is the true position of his art. This is like when he unrestrainedly begins to tattoo friends’ bodies in a protracted but absolutely unprofessional process, the bodies covered in undecipherable marks becoming enigmas born out of living in this world. Or like when he opened LBX Gallery in downtown Hangzhou, offering artworks, tattoos, secondhand goods, strangely designed objects and gadgets, and straightforward art forgery, all mixed together, until the shop closed. By the time of the closure Zhou had already managed to take art out of the studio, exhibition spaces, and art history books, and in the coexistence between artist and present society construct a new narrative ability doing away with class hierarchy and authority.

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