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.
Lian Zhang (b. 1984, Hangzhou, China) lives and works in London after completing her first MA in Painting from the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou (2007-2010) and a second MA from the Royal College of Art, London (2011-2013). Zhang’s works hint at multifaceted narratives that strain in many different directions at once, creating a current of tension that runs under an overlying sense of serenity. The past and the future are suspended, interweaving allusions to precise historical periods with timeless imagery. Zhang investigates the connections between interior and exterior worlds, constructing scenes both from personal memories and from imaginary landscapes. Through soft brushstrokes and a vivid colour palette, Zhang creates delicate scenes of transformation. Filled with the energy of stasis and motion, her paintings embody a fluidity between objects and figures. Zhang’s paintings are firmly sited within a rich art historical tradition, drawing particularly on the Surrealist and Symbolist movements. They are also inspired by the teachings of Chinese philosophy and Taoism. Zhang’s latest works explore Asian female identity and the experience of living abroad as an immigrant, challenging preconceptions and weaving together complex painterly narratives about what it means to live across multiple cultures. In particular, her recent paintings highlight and undermine some of the ways in which Asian women are stereotyped and objectified. Recent solo exhibitions include Weathering with You, Lychee One, London (2022); Oil on Paper, Lychee One OVR (2020); and Constellations and Folds, Lychee One, London (2020). Selected group exhibitions include: Dream Baby Dream, Fitzrovia Gallery, London (2022); An Ode to Orlando, Pi Artworks, London (2022); A couple of: The Dual-mechanism of the New Generation of Asian Artists, Hive Art Centre, Beijing (2021); Unfair Weather, Lychee One, London (2021); Fortune Exhibition of Li’s Family House, White Space, Beijing (2021); Fertile Laziness, Platform Projects, London (2021); Human-ish, SYNT, New York (2021); Antisocial Isolation, Saatchi Gallery (curated by Delphian Gallery), London (2020); Bone Memory, Lychee One, London (2019); Rifts in Silence (with Wu ding and Zhao Qian), M Art Center, Shanghai (2018); Flickering Boundaries, MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai (2018); Mingled Spaces (with Caroline Walker and Gareth Cadwallader), Lychee One, London (2017). Zhang’s work features in many private collections worldwide including the Marcelle Joseph Collection and the GIRLPOWER Collection in the UK. Zhang is also the founder of Lychee One, the first contemporary art gallery in London owned by a person of mainland Chinese heritage. As Zhang has transitioned to being a full-time artist in 2022, Lychee One is now run and managed by James Hu.
Gabriella Pounds is a London-based writer, editor and researcher. Her writing focuses on art, literature, creative non-fiction, post-internet, cosmology, science fiction and philosophy. Her written work has been published in Frieze, Artforum and The White Review. In 2016, Pounds completed an MA in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London after finishing a BA with First Class Honours in History and Political Philosophy from the University of Manchester, UK in 2014.
Marcelle Joseph is an independent curator based in London. In 2011, Joseph founded Marcelle Joseph Projects, a nomadic curatorial platform that has produced 42 exhibitions in the UK and the rest of Europe, featuring the work of over 250 international artists. Joseph holds an MA in Art History with Distinction from Birkbeck, University of London with a specialization in feminist art practice. Her curatorial work focuses on gender and the performative construction of identity with an emphasis on material-led artistic practices. Joseph is the executive editor of Korean Art: The Power of Now (Thames & Hudson, 2013). Additionally, Joseph is the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of Mimosa House, London; and the Secretary and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Matt’s Gallery, London. She is also a member of the Advisory Board of Procreate Project, London, and the Selection Panel of PLOP Residency, London. She served on the jury of the 2017-2019 Max Mara Art Prize for Women, in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery and Collezione Maramotti, and the Mother Art Prize 2018. She also collects artworks by female-identifying artists under the collecting partnership, GIRLPOWER Collection, as well as more generally as part of the Marcelle Joseph Collection. In 2022, her collections were on public display for the first time in the UK in a travelling exhibition co-curated by Joseph that launched at the Rugby Art Gallery & Museum, Rugby.