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zhang huan: q confucius at rockbund museum
original content
dec 23, 2011
zhang huan: q confucius at rockbund museum


zhang huan: q confucius
rockbund art museum, shanghai, china
on now until january 29, 2012

‘q confucius no.2′, 2011
 silicone, steel, carbon fibre and acrylic
380 x 980 x 660 cm
image © designboom

designboom has visited ‘q confucius’, a solo exhibition by chinese-born and new york and shanghai based artist zhang huan
on display at the rockbund art museum (RAM). zhang’s exhibition is the first since the RAM renovation. the installation is
zhang’s largest solo exhibition held in china and is a response to traditional chinese culture as told through the artist’s varied
use of media. zhang’s collection, created specifically for the RAM ‘q confucius’ exhibition, included a sculptural performance piece,
ash paintings, a gigantic sculpture of confucius and a planted, insect-laden installation outside of the gallery space.

the  installation was created by zhang in an attempt to address several seemingly insurmountable cultural questions–
‘faced with rapid economic and societal changes and energy and climate challenges, how can we achieve sustainable
development? what responsibilities come along with china’s rise in international importance? where is the sense
of spiritual belonging for contemporary chinese?
‘ -rockbund art museum

the relationships between the modern human and his or her social, cultural and environmental relationships are
poetically interpreted through the presence of confucius throughout the exhibition. zhang’s use of the figure as
a symbol of moral and political philosophy, based in fairness and harmony, evokes an awareness of the deeper cultural
understanding existent within the chinese audience.


image © designboom


image © designboom

zhang modeled the face of the chinese cultural icon from an anonymous painting from the ming dynasty, ‘portrait
of confucius at leisure’. the massive silica-gel, mechanical bust of an unclothed confucius rests in a rectangular pool
in the center of the gallery space, its breast rising and falling as if the object were breathing. the sheer size of the sculpture
evokes a sense of reverence and spirituality in the viewer as they stand below the towering and life-like figure.



side view
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detailed view of confucius sculpture’s face
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‘q confucius no.6′, 2011
installation
monkeys, tree, pneumatic device, steel bed, wire net
1200 x 1400 x 600cm
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‘q confucius no.6′ may be found in the in the vertical gallery space of RAM. a twelve-meter-high steel cage has been formed
and within this steel structure, a robotic confucius lies on a nine-meter-long couch. the figure jumps up from his recumbent pose,
moving quickly to attention. the robotic confucius is surrounded by a circle of trees housing nine living monkeys.
during the exhibition, the monkeys move about the installation and are cared for by specialist keepers for their three month stay
in the rockbund art museum. zhang chose to bring this lively element to the exhibition in order to articulate a metaphor of the
earliest forms of human civilization, the primal needs for shelter, food, territory and proliferation. the robotic spiritual master
and the monkey troupe are locked together to demonstrate the balance between the quest for higher consciousness and human desire.

when designboom visited the exhibition, the monkeys were not present.


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‘q confucius no.6′, in motion
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detailed view of ‘q confucius no.6′
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detailed view of sword and robe
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‘q confucius no. 3′, 2011
ash on linen
280 x 780cm
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the incense ash paintings are drawn upon two large canvases, displayed opposite of one another within the gallery space.
one piece portrays christ and the apostles at the last supper and the other pictures confucius with his disciples. the third
ash painting is found on the third wall within the installation and pictures a calm ocean scene. zhang’s ash-painted medium
was developed as an investigation into the spiritual property and metaphysical connotations of painting with the residue
of ash as a result of incense burned for religious offering. the juxtaposition of confucius and christ and the religiosity
of modern eastern and western societies.


installation view
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additional ash painted perspectives
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detailed view of the ash painted work
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‘q confucius no.4′, 2011
ash on linen
280 x 780cm
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‘q confucius no.5′
ash on linen
150 x 280cm


image © designboom


‘q confucius no.7′, 2011
steel, cement, wood, termites and ants
310 x 1200 x 330cm
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moving to the outdoor portion of the exhibition, the concrete and steel building by zhang and in union church square i
n shanghai features an ancient tree-trunk housing colonies of both ants and termites. the twenty ton tree rests in the building
which regulates an environment hospitable to the insect populations present. ‘q confucius no.7′ is in a constant state of evolution,
the insects molding a new work at every moment. the termite colony has a very specific societal structure, maintaining perfect
order as the creatures chip away at the wood remains. their presence in the exhibition is representative of the order,
social etiquette and morality appreciated by confucian values.


image © designboom


image © designboom


image © designboom

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