Zhou Ke is a trained artist and is knowledgeable of- and in constant dialogue with the rich history of Laozi... Read More
Zhou Ke is a trained artist and is knowledgeable of- and in constant dialogue
with the rich history of Laozi paintings and philosophy. In ‘Black’ she uses
the tools of her time to explore the properties of traditional Chinese
calligraphy and ink wash painting.
In a sense, Black heralds a new chapter of landscape painting.
First, one can argue the use of ink as a reference to ink-wash painting and the
mop a comical and utilitarian approach to a calligraphy brush. It is important
to note the utilitarian aspect in reference to the mundane and systematic
approach of the covering of the walls. The rooms are being blacked out. And
apart from the light source coming from an open window the rooms are each
more-or-less completely obscured in black ink. This large brushwork of black
calls to mind works by French abstract expressionist Soulage or perhaps works
by Franz Kline.
The utilitarian aspect is reinforced by the dress of Zhou Ke. She
is dressed in street cleaners uniform and she dutifully fulfills the action in
a passionless and emotionless state. This emotionless aspect of working evokes
perhaps the sentiment of government workers, simply carrying out an instructed
duty or perhaps the intention-state of Buddhist monks, to purposefully perform
a duty as an exercise of meditation and awareness in an act of doing. One can
argue equally that she is both doing and undoing. In a closeup we see her
covering up what seem like children’s drawings and a cabinet. The covering up
reflects on the undoing of censorship or blacking out, a subject commonplace in
Zhou Ke performs an action transforming the individual rooms with
her ‘brush-strokes’. It’s what Francois Julien has likened to the ‘sprezzatura’
of Chinese ink-wash painting.
As she traces, she is doing and un-doing and the perceived
landscape is transcendent between the ‘there-is’ and the ‘there-is-not’ it
provokes an awareness of the fleeting. This subject of ‘wu-wei’ is a
fundamental principle in Laozi painting.
To further the landscape analogy, we see the stacked frames in a
2x 4 formation. Evoking perhaps the cut-through of a building block, ubiquitous
in contemporary Chinese landscape. The screens/ frames are labelled with
individual camera numbers. The footage itself is filmed with pre setup surveillance
cameras. As one views the artwork one is committing an act of surveillance. The
action that is going on is captured within the black frames that holds the
landscape in tension. The individual videos are streamed and looped with a
randomness in such a way that it will never be the same twice. We are powerless
as surveillance agents, without the means to pause or fundamentally see
everything in detail.
This captures the essence of the traditional Chinese approach to
landscape painting where the eye soars and is a part of the landscape vs the
traditional Greco/ European thought of object and subject.
work is sets out to generate thought. Let others help thought
make its way.