Zhou Jirong Twilight City VII, mixed media, 2011

Zhou Jirong was an engraving artist, but recently began to work in mixed media, which changes the basis of printmaking, rather than a concept of installation. His serigraphs are printed in the rough canvas with some hand-drawn effects, at the same time adding clay onto the screen, which created the latest works “Mirage” series, still an extension of the urban objects, which seem to be a memory of the changes of a city, bringing about a spiritual response and urban attitude.

At the beginning, he painted alleys and minor streets, and old people, occasionally merging with one or two symbols of the city, such as the telephone booths or traffic signs, etc., that appear in the depths or at the bottom of the city, where people feel the germination of modernization. Dealing with these images, Zhou Jirong consciously strengthened the theme through the forms, only the house and figures, as well as the majority of empty screens are in many of his pictures, implying the hard-edge abstraction, as well as prominently emphasizing the theme. I think it is relevant to the experience of Zhou Jirong that he has been living and working in the old city and courtyard, feeling the change within the alleys and courtyard, when change has also penetrated into the alley, like his works, he pursued the form of modern art, as well as creating a traditional objective record. In addition, it is relevant to the structure of hard edges and the characteristics of the serigraph.

When Zhou Jirong moved out of the old city, the city had undergone tremendous changes, it is not a straight line like the previous road that was from his home to the school, but a road with a curved line, going around the city. While driving a car on a fast road and viaduct, only endless lights in the twilight are seen, that’s a brilliant and gorgeous view reflected by the sunset. It’s the brilliant scenery that inspired him to create a painting tone which seemed like a virtual experience or reality, like a magical dream, waking up, reality is blown towards us when we are still dreaming. Actually, the old alleys and courtyards could been seen from the viaducts, but the only bright lights embedded in the forest of tall buildings, recalling the old long alley, the scenery is a “mirage”, perfectly entitled the series of works by Zhou. Zhou Jirong subconsciously pursued the combination of the process of life changes and urban development (page 255). He never predetermined a topic, completely feeling the vision and intuition of the artist, themes hidden in the forms, and he was inspired by the impulse to perform something brilliant. It is flowing, jumping, invisible and dreamy, which is recorded to create a new screen. It’s certain that the feeling has a double meaning by combining the direct reference of a visual image, a virtual abstract image which is reflected in the direct stimulation of the subject, with the indirect reference to a psychological association, reinforcing the real scenery. Fundamentally speaking, that is why the real scene attracted him as it was caused by his association with his past life, although it was conducted unconsciously.

The series of “Mirage” offered a great change for Zhou Jirong, the process of indirectly referring to a change of life is more important than directly referring to a change of form, breaking through the limitation of the serigraph, transforming a figurative perspective composition into an open abstract painting, and most importantly the abstract is not intentionally abstract, but unfolds with real experiences, the abstract is based on a contemporary visual experience, instead of the geometric abstract of modern art. The change of form is not an easy process, when the realism language is improved so it is extremely delicate and refined, art should return to be simple and original, starting the construction of language again. However, when a modern language is improved to be extreme, art returns to reality, updating language in the experience of the reality, which Zhou Jirong is experiencing. But the visual experience of reality will never stay in its original form, but always expand to reality itself. Zhou Jirong said that in his exhibition, a Brazilian Cultural Counsel to China said it seemed to paint the city of St. Paul, while an observer from USA said it is like the memories of the changes of the city of Detroit of his childhood. Indeed, it is a common feeling, that Beijing is repeating the urbanization processes of other cities.

In the “Mirage” series, the gorgeous visions conceal melancholy, as he is driving on the ring road of the city, looking at the scenery of the city, although it is gorgeous but hardly reached, visual and psychologically distant, which isolates a man from nature, and denies that a man is a part of nature. Therefore, the “Mirage” displays not only the urban landscapes, but also the masked depression. His works are like recalling history from realities, which are the patterns of an urban city, memories are invisible and mobile, which is similar to the randomness of painting production, the images of realities constantly change along with the flowing thoughts. Memory would also flow from it, and fix on the screens as a symbolic trace. In the “Mirage” series, some dark red color is vaguely shown from the twilight and shadows, seemingly adding to the ethereal beauty with a bit of vicissitudes, like the memories emerging from the gorgeous realities.

It’s not an ordinary red pigment, but a red clay brought from the Sankoh Prairie in Gannan, been brushed on the walls of the noted Labrang Monastery. Zhou Jirong is deeply touched by this bleak color, because it seems so noble and sacred in nature. This red clay is deposited deeply below the grasslands, that a lama specially dug for him, sending him it from Gannan to Beijing. As the base of Zhou Jirong’s works is a canvas, covered by red clay and firmly attached to the base by glue, to make a seamless screen. It may also achieve the same visual effect by using other colours, but for Zhou Jirong, Gannan red clay has a symbolic meaning, the more modern life we live, the more distance there is between nature and us, like a mirage. Only nature itself supports life, but it currently exists accidentally contacting with life, in the underlying sense of a memory.

Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

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