Work by Zhu Jinshi, 2014; Xuan paper and ink installation, dimensions variable

Work by Zhu Jinshi, 2014; Xuan paper and ink installation, dimensions variable

Pearl Lam Galleries presents the first solo exhibition of works by Chinese artist Zhu Jinshi in Singapore. Zhu Jinshi’s wide-ranging and diverse oeuvre across media as varied as installation, objects, performance, video, photography and painting over the past 30 years is telling of an artist with an ongoing commitment to broadening and advancing his means of expression.

One of the renowned group of artists who left China in the 1980s, Zhu was marked by his move to Germany and his encounters with the work of artists including Beuys, and the Arte Povera and Fluxus movements, among others. Abandoning painting for a short time, he began to engage in more radical forms of expression, producing conceptual, installation and performance work and exploring possibilities for extending art into physical space. Zhu’s practice was characterised by its use of contemporary Western art theory to uncover new possibilities in the cultural resources and materials of China. It is a mark of his quality as an artist that he continues to forge a fresh and profoundly distinctive idiom out of his two ‘homes’.

The framework of the exhibition provides the opportunity to see works from two of the most iconic categories of Zhu Jinshi’s oeuvre, installation and painting, in conversation. Work, an arresting site-specific Xuan paper installation conceived by the artist for the gallery space, stretches over 30 metres and is created from 8,000 sheets of rice paper, a medium which Zhu has returned to throughout his career and which he reinvents through monumental installations, individually crumpled and rolled by hand and partially dipped in black ink. Xuan paper has been used in China for millennia. It is the first paper ever invented for writing and has been traditionally used as a surface for calligraphy and scholarly ink and brush painting. It is steeped in inherited social and cultural associations. Work demonstrates Zhu’s engagement with the installation work that he encountered in Germany in the 80s, yet contrasts the cool, intellectual, industrial nature of Minimalist sculpture with the delicacy of paper that bears traces of the hand, engaging emotion before intellect. This will be placed in dialogue with the sensuous, impassioned surfaces of Zhu’s current repertoire of near-sculptural abstract oil paintings—a medium that Zhu has for over a decade renewed with his attempt to capture the encounter between his own subjectivity and his experience of the world in the form of paint.

In this exhibition, Zhu ruminates on how his engagements with both painting and installation can come together in a manner that conjures up possibilities for understanding the term “simplicity” in relation to the artistic philosophies of Minimalism, Arte Povera and Mono-ha. The terms “simplicity” and “Minimalism” are, in a way, interlinked; both emphasise an extreme idea of subtraction and the use of an utmost economy of expression. The distinction here is that for Zhu, “simplicity” does not focus on the act of singularising, but rather on bringing simple, uncomplicated objects into the scope of art, and allowing them to generate creativity.

Zhu states that, “In today’s world, we are not lacking in concepts, but instead lack firsthand experience, sensory perception and emotional contact. In this exhibition, ‘simplicity’ is not conceived as a theoretical rationale, but rather a term that characterises an approach to art that is regrounded in encountering, experiencing and perceiving firsthand and on-site.”

About the Artist

Born in Beijing in 1954, Zhu Jinshi studied painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts from 1973 to 1977. Zhu moved to Germany in the mid-1980s and worked as a lecturer in the Architecture Department at Berlin Institute of Technology (TU Berlin) in 1994. At present, he lives and works in Beijing.

Zhu began painting abstract works in the late 1970s, and participated in the Stars group exhibition, the first avant-garde art show held after the Cultural Revolution. The core of Zhu’s artistic practice is best represented by traditional Chinese aesthetics, which emphasises the harmony between human beings and the natural world.

Zhu also uses traditional images that reference reality in his works; eventually, the depicted reality is in the form of abstract art with completely free brushstrokes. Rather than a logical analysis, summarisation or expression of individual emotions, the artist characterises his paintings as “mind images” produced by the complete comprehension of a given phenomenon. He believes that his perception and understanding of the world can be fittingly expressed only through sustained contact and dialogue with materials; it is through this process that these materials act as vehicles for his inner spirituality.

Zhu Jinshi’s recent solo exhibitions include Zhu Jinshi: The Reality of Paint (2013) at Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong, and Blum & Poe at ADAA: The Art Show 2013, New York, USA. He has shown widely in major international and national exhibitions, including China Avant-Garde Art (1993) in Berlin; Yi Pai: 30 years of Abstract Art in China (2008), La Caixa Forum in Palma, Barcelona and Madrid, Spain; Yi Pai—Century Thinking (2009) at Today Art Museum, Beijing, China; Wu Ming, Form is Formless—Chinese Contemporary Abstract Art (2011) at Contrasts Gallery (now Pearl Lam Fine Art), Shanghai, China; Mind Space—Maximalism in Contrasts (2010) at Contrasts Gallery (now Pearl Lam Fine Art), Shanghai, China; Mind Space—Maximalism in Contrasts (2011) at the University of Pittsburgh, USA; and Mind Space: Maximalism in Contrasts (2012), Hillwood Art Museum, Long Island University, New York, USA. Zhu’s works are currently on show in 28 Chinese at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami.

About the exhibition

Dates: 28 May – 13 Jul 2014

Venue: Pearl Lam Galleries Singapore

Courtesy of the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries Singapore, for further information please visit

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