Chen Zhou, selected by Venus Lau

2018 Future Greats

By Venus Lau

Blue Hole (still), 2017, HD video, 26 min. Courtesy the artist Life Imitation (still), 2017, digital HD film, 82 min. Courtesy the artist

Born in Zhejiang province in 1987 and currently based in Shanghai, Chen Zhou works mainly with installation and video. A hallmark of Chen’s videoworks is the way he sees and treats colour – he has a penchant for spreading a patch of symbolic colour across the video frame, as if a lighting gel has been superimposed over the picture. By doing so, Chen blurs the visual depths in his moving images, generating a visual flatness that contrasts with their narrative progression (which takes influence from literary writers such as Milan Kundera and Raymond Carver).

The pervasive use of colours in Chen’s artworks is an indicator of his research interest in common affective experiences. In his ‘yellow period’, for example, which included the exhibition I’m not not not Chen Zhou (Magician Space, Beijing, 2013) and his presentation at ON | OFF, a survey show of young Chinese artists (Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 2013), he often utilised everyday objects and icons of the bright, warm colour, including bananas and smiley-faced emojis, rethinking the notion of yellow being a global signifier of general happiness. Underlying his inclination towards this particular colour is an interest in laughter, which Henri Bergson saw as ‘in need of an echo’. As a form of social suspense and a void of meaning, laughter rebuilds the narrative space.

Chen Zhou Life Imitation, from AR Jan_Feb 2018 Future Greats Chen Zhou
Life Imitation (still), 2017, digital HD film, 82 min. Courtesy the artist

Chen’s enthusiasm is explicated by the exhibition titled after the late American comedian Andy Kaufman (Aike-Dellarco, Shanghai, 2014). After spending several years on scriptwriting in a rural area with limited Internet access, Chen has recently entered his ‘blue period’, ushered in by the appearance of Blue Hole (2017), a video in which the whole screen is flooded with a hue similar to that of the so-called ‘blue screen of death’ on the Micrcosoft Windows operating system. Staring at the video for a while, one could discern in it visual depths evocative of Sinofuturism – a neologistic term to suggest the examination of the archaeology of the future in non-Western contexts.

Chen Zhou is based in Shanghai. Since graduating from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2009, Chen has experimented with aesthetic languages in his videowork, and describes his current stage of work as ‘hedonistic’. Notable solo projects include I’m not not not Chen Zhou (2013) at Magician Space, Beijing, and Hot Spots Project (2012) at SH Contemporary, Shanghai. Chen has exhibited widely both in China and around the world, namely Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013), Today Art Museum, Beijing (2012), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2012), Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato (2012), and Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid (2011). 

Venus Lau is artistic director at K11 Art Foundation. She is based in Shanghai

From the January & February 2018 issue of ArtReview, in association with K11 Art Foundation