Zhou Yilun: Till I Believe

2022. 03. 19-05. 04

The Pirahãs made me question concepts of truth that I had long adhered to and lived by. The questioning of my faith in God, coupled with life among the Pirahãs, led me to question what is perhaps an even more fundamental component of modern thought. 

— Daniel L. Everett, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes (2008)


While Suffocating in the unbridgeable gap between our longing for faiths and the extreme countercharges that the former returns with, being “heathens” seems to, at its highest stake, resolve the mental crisis that is borne out of the loss of meaning. It is undeniable that, as much as heathens fully embark on hedonistic rituals, they are constantly excluded by main religious beliefs to varying extents. As Zhou Yilun’s third solo exhibition at Beijing Commune, “Till I believe” not only represents how classic and kitsch intertwine with each other on his paintings but also demonstrates his latest artistic trajectory that makes the escape from mainstream cultural semiotics possible.


On the one hand, parts of the paintings are produced in a means much similar to the classic Fresco, which highly demands layered and fast-paced painting techniques. Whereas on the other hand, as layering itself may lead various images towards a paralleled yet intertwined relationship, Zhou Yilun’s works are also pointing at a seemingly contradictory narrative. To be more precise, his trajectory not only showcases a withdrawal from the spiritual realm where confusions and obstacles arise but also indicates his potential mission, that is, to constantly translate and reconstruct the cultural semiotics, which is dwelling on the verge of disintegration themselves. It is precisely due to this fact that those paintings made after the classical ones could cope well with the trending elements layered on top of them, that which are widely distributed in the light of consumerism. As the traditional perspective functions as the pure agency, Zhou Yilun’s trajectory turns out to be an act that is neither attempting to overlook classic nor to redefine kitsch. 


In the exhibition hall designed by Zhou Yilun himself, the paintings hung in the dim light simulate those in the European chapels. Such a distinguishable contrast between lightness and darkness does not simply respond to the artist’s distant yet intimate interrelation with classical images but rather awakes in the spectators a new way of looking which is departed from the disciplined one often applied in white boxes. As much as the dominating and collective beliefs intend to eliminate the individual’s initiative longings, Zhou Yilun’s works seem to find their way out through the layered diversity and multiplicity. Positively speaking, the values that are devoid of meanings give rise to the production of new contexts. As much as darkness does not merely lead to depression, where the lights point at is never the only one direction. 


We are all too often the three blind men describing an elephant; or the man who looks on the wrong side of the road for his keys, simply because the light is better there. 

— Daniel L. Everett, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes (2008)


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