Galerie Ora-Ora is delighted to announce Zhang Yanzi’s first solo exhibitions in the United Kingdom with A Quest for Healing at the Surgeons’ Hall Museums in Edinburgh, and A Quest for Wellness at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the museum in the city. The exhibitions will run concurrently from April to November, showcasing her latest works stemming from her curiosity about the human body, her investigation of the human condition, medicine and healing.
Celebrating the gallery’s ‘year of firsts’ the first of these solo museum exhibitions, A Quest for Healing: Zhang Yanzi will run from 27 April – 4 November at the Surgeons’ Hall Museum in Edinburgh. This is the first art exhibition to be shown at this museum – one of the largest medical museums in Europe. Moved by her residency at the Museum in 2017, the show’s gentle yet probing paintings and installations have been inspired by the rich collections of the museum, its unrivalled collection of medical history, and detailed notes from found medical notebooks that are part of the Museum’s collection. “All volcanoes are nothing but acne” is an installation conveying her emotional eruption after she visited the Museum, which also embodies her reflections of the cosmological philosophy and view of the world. When we overlook the earth, all the erupting volcanoes are nothing but acne on a face, all terrific traumas seems to be insignificant, conversely, seemingly small human being, or an ant, might be a universe. In particular, Secret Path, a series of four artworks which directly respond to western and eastern medicine, harness as reference, notes and medical illustrations from Notes in anatomy taken from lectures by Professor Turner, Session 1881-82 by David Middleton Greig (1864-1936) from the library of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The multi-layered works consist of landscape ink paintings on the lower layer, and a human face painted on silk on the upper layer. The face is drawn from a Song Dynasty book serving as a resource on Chinese face reading methodologies; and how patterns of facial moles might divulge clues to a person’s character or destiny. ‘Ancient Chinese people believed that everything mutually supports and restrains each other’, says Zhang Yanzi on the idea of healing and well-being. “From the body to the spirit, we always have moments of confusion and look for remedy. Whilst men were born to suffer pain, affliction of the soul needs consolation of the spirit and the strength and calmness from the inner mind and body.’
The exhibition explores and presents the perspective of healing from the Chinese tradition. Highlights include Wishing Capsules, a large-scale installation includes tens of thousands of wishes written by individuals over 2017 and 2018 from China, collected by the artist, sealed in medicine capsules – these will form a time capsule in the future, when wishes are reviewed from the distance of time. Also, Sanctuary and Scar, which are replicas of a surgical bed which is now in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, imbue the stark reality of medical intervention with the graceful beauty of Chinese ink.
The experience of cruelty and beauty on the journey of life, is an inspiration that artist Zhang Yanzi look forward to bringing to the audience with her solo exhibition entitled A Quest for Healing, through the powerful visual tension constructed among various materials, she hopes to share her “sublime” sensibility of life with the audience. Correspondingly, A Quest for Wellness will be almost simultaneously held in Bath, seems to be gentler. Most of her expression stems from the traditional Chinese art language, and her artwork manifests concern and comfort for art on the body and mind. The visual language conveyed in this exhibition could be taken as another kind of “delicacy”. Both of her exhibitions share a common theme, but they contrast with each other on visual effects, forms and styles, thus they form a relationship of mutual interpretation.
Simultaneously, Yanzi will also present The Quest for Wellness at the Museum of East Asian Art from 5 May to 12 November, as a key moment that celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Museum. The theme of wellness is the predominant theme of the city of Bath since its origins as a Roman spa-town. In this exhibition, the artist explores common frailties and shared humanity, investigating the nature and meaning of wellness in China: its history, and its modern counterpoints from a Chinese perspective. Works on display will include Excess, a silk robe covered in pill capsules which portrays pills as a kind of physical and psychological armour in the modern world; Inhalation, a Chinese painting on analgesic plasters that explores the ability of beautiful objects to provide humans psychological comfort; and Pure Land, an ink painting of Buddha’s portrait in the ancient Chinese Buddhist mural style that alludes to the concept of well-being from a spiritual angle. The exhibition invites visitors to be open to various facets of wellness and explore the true meaning of good health.
‘Zhang’s artworks always convey a sense of finesse, refinement and calmness. Her works act as a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophy. They explore pain and remedy in the body, spirit and mind, and document our quest for remedy and meaning. Her artworks respond to the grave frailty of the human condition, with sensitivity, warmth and beauty. We are delighted to be bringing Zhang Yanzi’s art to the UK – her art is truly universal, breaking down borders and boundaries by showing the universal doubts, weaknesses and joys of being human,” says Henrietta Tsui-Leung, Co-Founder and Director of Galerie Ora-Ora.
Both exhibitions follow the successful presentation of Zhang’s exhibition at Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences in July 2016.
About Zhang Yanzi
Zhang Yanzi was born in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province. Her father was a veterinary doctor and she has this memory about her childhood, “When my parents were not at home, I secretly opened my father’s desk. Inside there was a special box containing a stethoscope, I put it on my ears and listened to my heartbeat, I also used it for karaoke… The stethoscope was one of my favourite toys.”
Graduating from the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2007, Zhang devoted herself to traditional calligraphy and landscapes, for which she continues to win great acclaim. In 2010, she recalled the peaceful familiarity of the medical apparatus of her childhood; and began to depict medicine in her art.
This realization led to her breakthrough exhibition, Remedy, at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013. Exhibitions since include a solo show at Beijing’s Today Art Museum in 2013, PAN Palazzo delle Arti di Napoli, Italy (2014), Essence at the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences (2016), and Volta New York (2017). She will also be exhibiting in Galerie Ora-Ora’s Leap to Light, at Art Basel Hong Kong 2018. One piece from this exhibition, All Volcanoes are Nothing but Acne, will also be showed at the Surgeons’ Hall Museums.
Zhang lives in Beijing and serves as the editor-in-chief of CAFA Art Info at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Her art is collected by the National Art Museum of China, the Jiangsu Provincial Art Museum, the Audemars Piguet Museum and others.
About Galerie Ora-Ora
Ora-Ora began in Hong Kong in 2006, with globally-sourced artists who are thought-driven innovators. Our artists interpret history and philosophy to bring new perspectives to our modern world and the lively dialogue of east and west. Recognized for our support of Asian contemporary art, we have grown to represent artists from Asia, Europe and the US across a variety of media. Ora-Ora was founded by Alfred Leung and Henrietta Tsui-Leung. Henrietta then co-founded the Hong Kong Art Galleries Association, which built connections and possibilities in the growing Hong Kong art industry. The gallery continues to develop alliances and partnerships with institutions globally to enable discovery of our artists in fresh environments. From our base in Hong Kong, we travel regularly to meet our clients at global art fairs and our international exhibitions.
2018 marks a new chapter in the Ora-Ora’s story as we enter our new gallery space on the 17th Floor of H Queen’s, in Central, Hong Kong. Our opening show, Screaming Books, embodies the spirit of a gallery which is, as ever, both research-based and future-focused.
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Ora-Ora, for further information please visit www.ora-ora.com.