Cosmic Wonder

Zhao Yao, The Power of Nature, 2016–18. The Workers’ Stadium, Beijing. Photo: UCCA.

EARLIER THIS MONTH, the artist Zhao Yao experienced what it’s like to be a pop star, preparing for a one-show-only event at the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing. Built on the tenth anniversary of the new China in 1959, the stadium has been a cultural and sports center for the past six decades, accommodating various activities, but mostly football games and pop music concerts in recent years. It’s also surrounded by the most popular nightclubs in Beijing.

To the stadium, Zhao brought his 108,000-square-foot painting, The Power of Nature. Think of it as a massive rug made of cloth and fabric, on which are abstract patterns that are typical to Zhao’s long-term painting practice. (He’s known for appropriating colorful but intricate pictures from brain-teaser books in his paintings.) At 6 AM on May 18th, Zhao and some fifty people from his team loaded the rolled work in and unraveled it in the football field.

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Three leading artists explore the complex notion of a multi-ethnic national identity in post-globalization China

While I was writing this article, in February 2018, the artist Zhao Yao received permission to rent the iconic Workers’ Stadium in north-eastern Beijing for one day in May. His intention was to show an abstract composition on fabric, measuring 116 × 86 m, which was produced in 2016 and initially displayed 5,000 m above sea level on a mountainside in Qinghai province on the Tibetan Plateau. Independently, last October, Zhao Zhao brought a camel and its keeper from the far western region of Xinjiang to Tang Contemporary Art in Beijing. His exhibition, ‘Desert Camel’, was a coda to the major work Project Taklamakan (2015–16), for which the artist transported a functioning refrigerator to the middle of the Taklamakan Desert. Zhuang Hui, meanwhile, has been visiting the Qilian Mountains in Gansu province for the past seven years,  exploring the geography and culture of the region through photography, video and installation. All three artists live and work in Beijing, yet have spent years working on  projects relating to the far west of China, a region loaded with historical and political contention.Gansu, Qinghai, Tibet and Xinjiang collectively form the great western flank of modern China. Consisting largely of impassable mountains and inhospitable deserts, these vast regions represent about 40 percent of the country’s landmass but house only four percent of its population. Areas of vital strategic importance to modern China, they are also home to peoples with their own ethnic and cultural identities, which frequently clash with Beijing’s objectives. Consequently, it has been an important part of modern Chinese politics to develop the notion of a multi-ethnic national consciousness.

Zhao Yao, Spirit Above All, 2016–17, project documentation, Nangqian County. Courtesy: the artist

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The Power of Nature:A Ten Thousand Square Meter Painting in Beijing



尤伦斯当代艺术中心(UCCA)携手艺术家赵要,于2018年5月18日在北京工人体育场呈现艺术项目“自然的力量:一万平米作品在北京”。此次项目将呈现艺术家历时三年完成的10, 000平米大型装置作品:艺术家将这件长116米、宽 86米的大型装置作品置于人迹罕至的自然环境中,经历半年的风吹日晒后撤下并回收展示。这是作品撤回至城市后的首次展示,是作品最重要的发展和全新的延续。

2016年至2017年实施的此项目是艺术家赵要2013年于伦敦佩斯画廊举办的个展“精神高于一切”的延续和发展。这件巨幅的大型装置作品图形选自《很有想法的绘画》作品中相同的思维游戏图案,经过北京工厂一年多的准备和制作后于2016 年 10月运抵实施地。2016年11月,150多位当地村民一起用一整天的时间,将其固定在海拔近5, 000米的无人区雪山山顶,将代表都市与现代化审美的抽象几何图案暴露在人迹罕至的环境里,在漫长冬季的恶劣自然中接受大风大雪的浸染和日月星辰的照耀。经过近半年的风吹日晒,浮华尽去,色彩渐褪,自然与人文的种种痕迹完整地留在了作品的表面。约翰·沃尔夫冈·冯·歌德在其作品《少年维特之烦恼》中写道:“只有自然,才是无穷丰富,只有自然才能造就大艺术家。”2017年5月,作品顺利撤下并运回至北京,自此开始在城市中的巡回。2018年5月18日,这块蕴含丰富经历、保留诸多痕迹的大型装置作品被带到位于繁华都市中心的北京工人体育场,第一次完全展开呈现。此前的自然与人文经历被注入新的展示空间中,使现代性和都市化的丰富历史文化认知与记忆在此汇聚。艺术家期望以此触发久居在现代化都市里的人们心中对自然精神的向往和对坚韧意志的追求。 Details »


《艺术世界》谭昉莹 采访整理


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Zhao Yao Spirit Above All, 2016


2016.11.23  Spirit Above All

10, 000-square-meters work

Will be on display here

On November 23, 2016, Zhao Yao’s latest large-scale art work, Spirit Above All, will be carried out at Moye Temple in Baizha at Nangqian County, Yushu autonomous prefecture, Qinghai province. The 116-meter-wide-and-86-meter-long work is the continuation and development of Zhao Yao’s 2012 work of the same name, Spirit Above All. After more than two years’ preparation and production, the work has been successfully transported to the mountain of Moye Temple at the end of October. With the assistance and support of the temple and Chakme Rinpoche , the work will be carried to the snowy summit by more than 100 local villagers and then unfolded there, almost 5000 meters high above sea level. Selecting patterns of thinking puzzles from the series A Painting of Thought and employing large-scale Tibetan Thang-ga cloth sticker technique, the new Spirit Above All is produced according to the size of Thang-ga at Moye Temple (120×80 meters). The 10, 000-square-meters work will be installed at the mountain top, alongside the existing Buddhist sutra streamers, white pagoda, and cliffside murals in the valley, echoing the local natural and cultural environment. The work will be exposed to natural environment for a whole winter and then be collected and displayed. The project aims to establish multiple cultural projects via local cooperation under the theme of “drying painting”. Meanwhile, various changes of the work will be monitored and recorded, throughout which process the work will accept and welcome visitors continuously.

Please stay tuned!

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