Poster of ZHE ZHU VANITAS

Fou Gallery and Backyard are pleased to present New York based photographer Zhe Zhu’s inaugural solo exhibition in Beijing from July 26 through August 20, 2014. Titled Vanitas, the exhibition will present eight works in his latest series, which challenges the boundary between painting and photography and explores the meaning of time and life. The opening reception will take place at Backyard on July 26, 3 – 6:30pm.

Zhe Zhu started his Vanitas series in 2012, inspired by vanitas, a type of symbolic still life painting that flourished in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. The term originates from Ecclesiastes 1:2 of the Bible – “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Vanitas paintings often use decaying flowers, rotten fruits, skulls, bubbles, clocks and other symbols to represent the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. Zhu’s initial intention was to create lush images that look like 17th-century still life paintings, or “to make photography look like painting.” As his experiment evolved, he started to think about the artificial space defined by painting, the symbolic meaning of the objects and the role of lighting and perspective. During the project, Zhe Zhu’s grandfather passed away, making him reflect on the passage of time and the meaning of life. Zhu became personally attached to the theme of vanitas. By replacing the elements in Dutch still life paintings with daily objects from the present, he reveals the process of vanishing and decaying in his own life.

Zhe Zhu, Bones on Paper, 2013; archival pigment print on fine art paper, 61x76cm, edition of 12+2AP

Zhe Zhu, Bones on Paper, 2013; archival pigment print on fine art paper, 61x76cm, edition of 12+2AP

Vanitas is also a study of the similarities and differences between painting and photography. Obsessed with detail, Zhe Zhu shot with a large format film camera and a medium-format digital camera. By manipulating the depths of field in different photos, he tries not only to imitate the artificial focus in oil paintings, but also to present the high-resolution details that cannot be achieved in paintings. Meanwhile, the dim light and horizontal perspective often used in still life paintings are rarely seen in Zhe Zhu’s photography. He amplifies the differences between the two media by using unconventional perspectives and ways of lighting. In Sleek (2014), cold rays of light fall on the fish and mirror-like desktop, creating a modern and industrial atmosphere. In Aerial View (2014), the objects are seen from above and appear as weightless planets lost in darkness and silence.

Zhe Zhu, Floating, 2013; archival pigment print on fine art paper, 61x76cm, edition of 12+2AP

Zhe Zhu, Floating, 2013; archival pigment print on fine art paper, 61x76cm, edition of 12+2AP

About the artist

Zhe Zhu (b.1993,Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China) is majored in Photography at School of Visual Arts, New York (B.F.A). His work has been featured in Wallpaper* magazine. His recent shows include Somewhere Else at Dekalb Gallery of Pratt Institute, New York (2014); Kind of Blue at School of Visual Arts, New York (2013) and Earthlings at Neighborhood Church of Greenwich Village, New York (2012).

About the exhibition

Dates: July 26–August 20, 2014

Opening: July 26 (Saturday), 3pm – 6:30pm

Location: Backyard Restaurant, South Gate of China Academy of Railway Science Track Test Center, Jia No.1, North Road of Jiuxianqiao, Chaoyang District, Beijing, P.R.China

Hours: Monday – Sunday,11am – 9:30pm

Press Contact: Ding Ning(fougallery@gmail.com; 86-18570665973)

Courtesy of the artist and Fou Gallery, for further information please visit http://fougallery.com or http://zhezhu.net.

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