Past Exhibitions

Three Thousand Worlds \ Zhang Xiaotao

Shir Meller-Yamaguchi

Zhang Xiaotao began his career as a painter, and today he is one of the most intriguing New Media artists in China. Born in 1970, he lives and works in Beijing and Chongqing. He graduated from the Oil Painting Department at Sichuan Institute of Fine Arts, where he is currently director of the New Media Department. His works have been exhibited in major international art events and leading museums of contemporary art the world over, including the China Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013).
Zhang’s works take the viewer on a journey between multidimensional worlds, offering a time-space experience underlain by infinite variation. The transitions between these worlds take place, among others, by means of the rapidly changing modes of representation. Zhang’s visual language spans a vast range of animation options, from freehand drawing, through incorporation of photography and video, to 3D digital design. His works direct a critical gaze at the accelerated modernization processes taking place in China, while combining allusions to traditional Chinese art alongside Buddhist insights.
The current exhibition presents four of Zhang’s new 3D animation pieces for the first time in Israel. His most recent work, Worlds of the Trichiliocosm (2014), borrows the language of computer games, distorting it to paint parallel worlds seen from the point of view of bees in a hive, a marching man, and an aircraft circling planet Earth.
In The Adventures of Liang Liang (2013), an animated protagonist sets out on a quest in a three-dimensional world, moving alternately back and forth in Chinese history. The voyage, which oscillates between traditional tranquil ink landscapes and military parades, is rife with unexpected, absurd occurrences, ostensibly seen through the naïve eyes of a child, but in fact—presented in an utterly critical and disillusioned manner, which addresses the dilemmas confronted by present-day China.
Sakya (2010-11), an extraordinary, fascinating animation project, combines 3D animation with excerpts shot by the artist at a Tibetan monastery by that name, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in China. Zhang reconstructed the monastery and its Buddhist artworks by virtual means, as radiant entities that convey spiritual strength beyond any physical structure.
Scar (2009) is Zhang’s response to the 2008 earthquake in Wenchuan (Sichuan). The image of a palm—standing for the human potential for construction and destruction, life and death—appears and disappears in the course of the work. The animation moves cyclically between destruction and buildings which miraculously rise and tower once again, thereby intertwining contrasting emotions: sadness and despair at the loss alongside hope and belief in the power of creation.
The cultural context is vital to understating Zhang’s works. China’s sudden leap from communism to modernization and the global market took a harsh and painful toll on the individual. Zhang believes that the role of the artist is to shed light on man’s spiritual world, which was neglected in the pursuit of materiality; to remind us of the pulsation shared by man and the universe. “Our ancient people,” he says, “had a simple consciousness of relativity, that there is a kind of superior meaning between the macroscopic and the microcosmic, and there is a channel between ‘heart’ and ‘yo zhou’ (the universe).”
The ability to discern the unity and affinities between man and the cosmos, between the upper and lower worlds, is at the core of Buddhist thought; the reciprocity between visible and invisible existence. Zhang generates multi-dimensional movement in time and space. He operates like a particle accelerator. In his works, waves, lines, and dots come together to form a defined shape, only to bifurcate again and disassemble. His digital animation is a medium in which everything occurs concurrently and rapidly. A concrete image abruptly becomes transparent, radiating and dissolving; matter becomes energy, materializing into a visible form. “Form is void, void is form,” is an insight shared by Buddhism and Quantum Physics. The quantum field is an ubiquitous continuous medium. Particles are only a local condensation of the field; a concentration of energy which appears and disappears. The body is a vibrating entity of particles, and is inseparable from the space.
The collective concept of time-space, Yu Zhou, existed in Chinese thought as the idea of the multiverse (multidimensional universe). “Up to now human beings cannot really ‘see’ the multiverse, because we cannot cross from this time and space to another time and space, in other words—to another earth. In this work, I want to discuss times and spaces encountering and recombining, and many worlds of the microcosmic and the macroscopic, time and space, life and memory interlacing.”