Lychee One proudly presents Weathering with You, a solo exhibition of new work by London-based Chinese artist Lian Zhang. The exhibition is curated by Marcelle Joseph with the exhibition text below written by Gabriella Pounds.
‘Fucking you and being fucked by you are quite the same,’ opens Crossing Half of China to Fuck You, a poem by Yu Xiuhua. In 2014, a Chinese literary magazine published the poem on the messaging app WeChat, attracting a million shares. Xiuhua’s verse floats in the undertow between beauty and violence. There are images of political prisoners, infra-red-eyed deer, rain composed of silver bullets, a virtual spring. Bodies doing disgusting acts. After the poem went viral, Internet users condemned it as ‘slut poetry’. Xiuhua responded: ‘So what if I am a slut?’
Xiuhua’s punkish sensibility respawns throughout Lian Zhang’s paintings. In Reincarnation (2022), a severed nude lies in a steel blue lake. A butterfly rests its wings on her pink nipple. Above her, a planet mixes with an eyeball. If Xiuhua’s poems explore infinite desire, then Zhang’s paintings sync a lover’s iris with nebulae.
Cosmos. Oceans of time and space. On principle, the Surrealists died for it. Zhang, however, belongs to the Surrealist tradition outside of Western history. At Night (2022) depicts a figure immersed in waves of blue paint. She wears an angular, quiet-coloured shirt like an ancient envelope. A feminine-faced-disk inflames the ravine. And recalls poet and post-colonial philosopher Aimé Césaire in Solar Throat Slashed (1948): ‘the sun is a raped girl’ of ‘polarized light’. For Césaire, fire is not a destructive image. It is a ‘cosmic anger’ of the marginalised. It vomits forth a maimed life.
Zhang’s brushstrokes are like manga moths circling a flame. In Future (2022), a figure emerges from whirlpools of navy and lily-white paint. A cute plant grows from her hair caught in the teeth of the wind. She colours a 1960s home with a fluorescent green fingertip. While her outfit recalls medieval China, the atmosphere feels all the assassination of U.S. President J. F. K., petal- shaped sunglasses, and space oddity. In Dealer (2022), meanwhile, blades of paint simulate a turtle- necked protagonist. She appears equal parts gamer, Susan Sontag and a baby fox.
Weathering with You (2019) refers to Makoto Shinkai’s animation film. It imagines a dystopian Tokyo amid silent rain. The character Hina, however, can manipulate the weather and invoke drifting cherry petals, sunshine. Like Makoto Shinkai, Yu Xiuhua and Aimé Césaire, Zhang shares an apocalyptic, surgical approach to art in the service of a brighter future.