• COLD MEMORY - Zhang Moliu Solo Exhibition
  • Artist: Zhang Moliu
  • Critic: Chen Haiyan
  • Opening: 2016.05.07 / 16:00 - 18:00
  • Duration: 2016.05.07 - 07.01 / 10:00 - 18:00
  • Address: ANART. 2F, Building 13, M50, Shanghai

Works Here

(Note: Please respect the copyright of the original author. Thank you.)

by Chen Haiyan

Zhang Moliu's works are very private with strong feminism, unlike the usual morbidezza in female art. On the contrary, it might stun the viewers with its bold, outspoken, straightforward air and clumsy human bodies in paradox scenes. It makes me curious about Zhang Moliu. I asked the gallery for her portrait (I don't know her, we have never met and we do not need to communicate, with a very simple reason. All what she wants to express is in her painting). Soon, a fresh, tall and tender next door girl appeared on my computer screen. After a close look, I was frustrated because I failed see the connection between her look and her works. I clicked her blog link, I found that she is not only into painting but also likes to write some pieces with steam of consciousness. Fine, girl, I would like to say “Mo Liu” is a beautiful name. Okay, let me start with feminism.

Firstly I would like to make it clear that I never think gender matters for facts, but when I run into some “people from previous dynasty”, I will automatically turn into a feminist and fight with them.  The world is realistic and cruel, like it or not and admit it or not, female identity is not simply pointed to physiological attributes (sex), in a larger sense, it has profound and complex social attributes (gender). It’s innevitable. Such identity is nature law and custom, sometimes frustrating, sometimes not matter much, just like the two sides of a coin with advantage and disadvantage. Generally, along with the progress of the society, the popularity of the concept of equality, women education and economic independence, the modern women have almost completely got rid of the predicament and confusion when Nala left home. Of course, feminist movement is still gaining ground worldwide and some of them are extreme, but this is obviously necessary. Because even today, due to different religions, ethnic, cultural traditions and the process of regional civilization, objection of women and sexual discrimination still exists. As long as Simone de Beauvoir’s "the Second Sex" is still called the Bible of women, and as long as the International Women's Day still remains its original intention, the discussion of women being trapped and self-trapping will still continue.

I do not have the intention to raise Zhang Moliu's works up to the height of moral of female independence or awakening of female consciousness for discussion. But unfortunately this is more or less an eccentricity which lurks in most of women’s works, be it music, art or literature…either unconsciously or consciously, deliberately avoiding or advertising. From a macro point of view, we can really see the progress and evolution of women’s self liberation if analyzing the history of female’s creation in the way of chronological and segmented nodes. But the contradictory relationship between the "is" in gender cognition and "should be” in social cognition has not been completely compromised, this also exists in the individual micro consciousness of growth which is the inevitable product under the environment of patriarchal society. In the speaking of Zhang Moliu's works, such insight and thinking is not her purpose, or she doesn’t even care about this kind of cliche topic. As one of the post 80’s who hasn’t carried too much historical tribulation and regrets, as open minded youngster who has received western and Chinese high education in good living environment with a consciousness of equality, perhaps her cognitive depth has not reached an ideal level, but this has apparently become another kind of fortune and advantage. Thereby possibly with no labels, no burden, no restraint from the ”must do” and not been kidnapped by moral and common customs, she can move forward without any burden on the way of conscious exploration and excavation of individual experience, and transfer the individual consciousness into the art of self expression. So, in the works of Zhang Moliu, I do not see any thought of serious questioning and criticizing, except the self importance, individual attention and self exposing without any taboo. Other people are not hell. Other people are just others, same as "I" who is independently objective existence. Each other is not hostile. Everything can be understood. Female are not natural ignorant women. Male are also not born to be great men. All are social beings with natural attributes. In my eyes, such images are both real and honest, peaceful and light. Neither criticizing nor praising, it’s just a kind of statement overflowed from heart. This can probably be regarded as the most free and independent state of art.

Those in viewers’ eyes are “forms”, perhaps in Zhang Moliu’s eyes are "contents". By this kind of personal forms she creates content, meaning and value. In terms of expression, pencil color on paper has limitations of its tool performance, but the fine and realistic modeling and the use of acrylic has strengthened the traditional attributes of painting, from which we can see Zhang Moliu’s solid painting skills and control of overall effect. But the most outstanding is her refreshing visual perception based on the bizarre imagination, for example, the precise deliniation of details in human bodies, dresses and accessories, the perfection of the composition, and the straightforward organ descriptions, stimulating the viewer’s visual neural, revealing a kind of exaggerating tension. This tension also exists in the figure’s stiff expressions and pretentious body languages, the simple symbols, and the meticulous decorative depiction, thereby weakening the possible color of feminine and sadness, achieving a ceremonial solemn, and expressing a powerful self-esteem. If having to define and emphasize it as a new generation of female works, I personally feel that the prospect of deleting the prefix "female" is at site.

Lastly, I would like to quote a famous opinion Nietzsche mentioned in The Birth of Tragedy for the ending: "Art is not a natural imitation, but a metaphysical supplement. It rose from the side of nature in order to beyond it." I also want to say that in the era of drastic fall in the value of the experience, individual empirical consciousness is worth to be cherished and looked after. It truly belongs to our own spiritual wealth. From this level, the diagram of consciousness left by Zhang Moliu is actually a kind of ceremony.


Written in Shanghai
March 26, 2016