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Accidental Aesthetics : Zhu Jinshi Solo Exhibition

Curator: Fiona Lu

04.20 - 05.28, 2022


Installation Views

Tang Contemporary Art is proud to announce the opening of “Accidental Aesthetics”, a solo show for noted Chinese artist Zhu Jinshi, on April 23, 2022, in the gallery’s Seoul space. The exhibition will focus primarily on the artist’s abstract paintings made since 2005, presenting more than 30 works from his “thick painting” series and his recent body of acrylic work.


As an important Asian contemporary art practitioner who rose to prominence in the second half of the 20th century, Zhu Jinshi has experimented with a wide range of mediums and methods. Amidst the historic Eastern and Western cultural currents of the Cold War, he tirelessly promoted and became part of the Asian experience. In 1979, Zhu participated in the “Stars”, China’s first contemporary art movement, and in the 1980s, he explored abstract painting and “apartment exhibitions”. In 1986, he moved to Germany and witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the 1990s, he started his installation practice, and after the year 2000, he engaged with Chinese abstract neo-expressionist painting and large-scale installation.


Abstract painting has always been a focal point in Zhu’s practice, but he has engaged with the aesthetic fissures and tectonic shifts between the many different artistic mediums and movements that emerged in the postwar period. While reconciling and resisting abstraction, orientalism, installation art, conceptual art, and land art, he holistically considered ways in which painting could be contemporary. Zhu Jinshi is not a conceptual artist; he is an inventor of formal aesthetics. The seams, the thickness, the viewing perspective, the fluidity, the compression, the materiality and spatiality of the paint, and other visual forms have shaped his distinctive painting style. Zhu constantly seeks out new visual frontiers and creates accidental aesthetics.


The exhibition primarily showcases Zhu Jinshi’s trademark thick paintings. He applies large blocks of thick oil paint to the canvas with a range of tools; he is constantly piling, mixing, and pressing the paint to highlight the exaggerated thickness, the intense markings, the three-dimensional sense of space, and the materiality of the paint. The overloaded aesthetic and dimensional perspective alter the relationship between oil paint and canvas, presenting an accidental aesthetic that is rooted in time, the sensation of falling, and the study of gravity. This accidental quality, in turn, challenges the overload of paint. The works almost magically offer unexpected ways of looking and unique aesthetic experiences. In this way, Zhu makes the transition from a vertical to a trapezoidal aesthetic, which is also the manifestation of a contemporary breakthrough in painting.


In recent years, Zhu Jinshi has created a series of small-scale thick paintings. He believes that small works offer more data points to study, strengthening his painting system. As he has said, “If an artist only paints several hundred works in his lifetime, they invariably express emotions or become mired in the iteration of a single detail. In the small works I’ve made over the last three years, I no longer emphasize thickness; this has already become a norm or a habit. I focus more on the complexity of the image, the size of the brushstrokes, the direction of the work, the brightness of the colors, and the gaps or vertical dislocations between the paint. They decide the linguistic structure.”


If the smaller oil paintings represent Zhu’s study of a finely detailed painting style, then his acrylic paintings indicate his desire to retain the maximum refraction of color. He applies undiluted acrylic paint directly to the surface, and several repeated layers intensify the lacquered, reflective quality of the material. The paint makes a strong impression on the retina, with its fluid colors and layered effects. Particularly when they appear in architectural spaces, the grandeur of these massive acrylic paintings accentuates the qualities of the acrylic paint, one of the three major synthetic materials, but also references today’s industrial, screen-based, multi-media, and highly saturated visual environment. 


Accidental aesthetics represent linguistic collapse and material nirvana. As Southern Song poet Beijian Jujian wrote, “Material things always meet their end, but the Dharma is never exhausted. Because there are pearls, there are also ashes.” In the complex and unknown present, people want to return to simplicity and all things have their voices heard. Art’s accidental possibilities, chance meetings, and pleasant surprises may provide a source of healing and hope.


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Accidental Aesthetics No.3 Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2018

2018.6.4 Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2018

At the Wujjang River Oil on canvas 160 x 180 cm 2007

My Heart is Far Away Oil on canvas 45 x 50 cm 2021

Splashed Rainbow Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm x 2pieces (diptych) 2019

Might be the East Wind Last Night Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2018

Tomorrow is like Milk No.1 Acrylic on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2021

Is Tomorrow Alright Acrylic on canvas 160 x 140 cm 2021

Spring Sleep Practice No.1 Oil on canvas 45 x 50 cm 2021

Ping-Pong story Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2010

Zhuge Liang_s Memorial Temple Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2005

Red Mark No.1 Oil on canvas 45 x 50 cm 2021

Snow of June Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm x 2pieces (diptych) 2014

Pirate Singer No. 1 Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2018

Dashing Concept No.1 Oil on canvas 45 x 50 cm 2021

Dashing Concept No.2 Oil on canvas 45 x 50 cm 2021

Dashing Concept No.4 Oil on canvas 50 x 45 cm 2021

Shitao Monk Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2018

Mediterranean Sea Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm x 3pieces (triptych) 2017

Blue Cliff Climber Acrylic on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2021

The farmer with the Wooden Shovel Acrylic on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2021

Peony Pavilion No.1 Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2019

The South Pole becomes Hot Acrylic on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2021

Let me think about Tomorrow Acrylic on canvas 160 x 140 cm 2021

Resplendent like Yesterday No.3 Acrylic on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2021

Rain Drop Oil on canvas 180 x 160 cm 2019

Propitious Omen - East Oil on canvas 50 x 45 cm 2021

Jinding Temple Oil on canvas 50 x 45 cm 2021

Palace Today No.4 Oil on canvas 50 x 45 cm 2021

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b. 1954, Beijing, China

Zhu Jinshi produces abstract paintings whose surfaces are built up with thick, near-sculptural layers of oil paint. Resembling colorful landscapes, Zhu’s images range in palette and scale, but the artist is known to always apply his oil paint with spatulas and shovels. Producing dense lashings of color, the artist’s method recalls the style and techniques espoused by the German Expressionists, who Zhu was profoundly influenced by during his years living in Berlin. Zhu belonged to a group of Chinese avant-garde artists named the Stars, which formed in 1979 to challenge aesthetic conventions and exhibit their work publicly. 


Zhu Jinshi is a pioneer of Chinese abstract art and installation art. At present, he lives and works in Beijing. Zhu’s major solo exhibitions include: Li Bai's Snow, Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong (2020); "Wood Character", Fusion Art Center, Beijing (2020); The Ship of Time / Rejecting River Currents (2018), Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing, China; Zhu Jinshi (2016), Yuan Art Museum, Beijing, China; Performance in Paint: Zhu Jinshi (2015), Inside-Out Art Museum, Beijing, China. His major group shows include The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China (2019), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles,USA;Abstract and Beyond—The Research Exhibition of Abstract Art in China (2016), Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China; 28 Chinese (2013), The Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA; The 5th Shanghai Biennale: Hyper Design (2006), Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China; Orient/Ation, 4th International Istanbul Biennial in Turkey (1995), Istanbul, Turkey; Chinese Avant-Garde Art (1993), Palace of World Culture, Berlin, Germany; The 2nd Xing Xing (Stars Group) Exhibition (1980), National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China.


Zhu Jinshi’s works have been collected internationally by notable public and private collections:Allison and Warren Kander, USA; Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, USA; Basma Al Sulaiman Museum of Contemporary Art, Saudi Arabia; Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA; Busan Museum of Art, South Korea; Dean Valentine Collection, USA; Delphine Arnault, France; Deutsche Bank, Germany; East West Bank, USA; Fubon Art Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan; Inside-Out Art Museum, Beijing, China; Mario Testino, UK; Minsheng Museum, Shanghai, China; M+ Museum for Visual Culture, Hong Kong, China; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea; Picasso Foundation, Málaga, Spain; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA; Song Museum, Beijing, China; The Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China; The Schaufler Collection, Sindelfingen, Germany; The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia;Today Art Museum, Beijing, China; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada; Wall Art Gallery, Beijing, China; White Rabbit Collection, Sydney, Australia.

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