Artist uses snow to de­pict ur­ban plight

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By LIN QI

Some sad­ness seems to lie be­neath the sim­plic­ity of Zhang Meng’s video works and ink paint­ings.

In many of his 3-D videos, the Tian­jin-based artist has cre­ated vast scenes of moun­tains and sur­round­ing ar­eas cov­ered in heavy snow.

Born and raised in Tang­shan, He­bei province, the 44-year-old says that al­though snow sig­ni­fies a sense of be­long­ing to him, he aims to show an anx­i­ety that ex­ists in to­day’s ur­ban life.

In some of his ink paint­ings, Zhang shows a mon­key hid­ing among trees. The sig­na­ture mon­key painted us­ing light dots may not be vis­i­ble to view­ers at first sight.

“As a child, I had heard scary folk sto­ries about mon­keys eat­ing peo­ple. I’m still a bit afraid of the an­i­mals,” he says, jok­ingly.

While the mon­key seems quite com­fort­able in his works, its eyes be­tray an in­ner fear. Through this de­vice, the artist con­veys a col­lec­tive keen­ness to es­cape life’s harsh re­al­i­ties.

Zhang shares his in­sights of peo­ple through his video and ink works at the on­go­ing solo ex­hi­bi­tion, The Wind Blows, at Bei­jing’s To­day Art Mu­seum.

A grad­u­ate in lithog­ra­phy from the Tian­jin Academy of Fine Arts, he shifted to 3-D videos in the late 1990s, and now heads his alma mater’s video art depart­ment. He does ex­per­i­men­tal ink art, too.

Ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor Lu Yinghua says that Zhang’s works com­mu­ni­cate a head-on ex­am­i­na­tion of peo­ple. The ap­proach shared by many artists of his gen­er­a­tion re­sponds to the ris­ing cul­ture of con­sumerism in China since the early 1990s, ac­com­pa­nied by voids in their per­sonal lives.

This is quite dif­fer­ent from artists from the late 1970s and ’80s who of­ten cre­ated “high­handed and macro­scopic per­spec­tives”, says Lu.

It took Zhang a year to com­plete his lat­est video on show, Fierce Tigers with Golden

Chains. The work shows two chained tigers run­ning far from a for­est to­ward the au­di­ence amid snow­fall.

The an­i­mals re­veal a cri­sis that af­fects ev­ery­one liv­ing in this world, Zhang says.

“Al­though I love the snow, I feel that it some­times glosses over our cir­cum­stances, leav­ing us un­pre­pared for ap­proach­ing trou­bles.”

He also dis­plays three works based on Green Bean Heaven, an un­fin­ished col­lec­tion of es­says he has been writ­ing for a decade re­call­ing his child­hood.

In the videos, he tries to bring back mem­o­ries and pieces them to­gether to cre­ate fan­tasy sce­nar­ios.


Zhang Meng’s solo show dis­plays his video works and ink paint­ings in Bei­jing.

Zhang Meng, Tian­jin­based artist.

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