PIFO Gallery is pleased to present Zhou Wenzhong’s solo exhibition Fitzini’s Temptation. It is the 1st solo exhibition of Zhou Wenzhong at PIFO Gallery. Curated by Fang Zhiling, the exhibition features the artist’s most recent works created in the past two years, showcasing an avid series of magical drama that brings together hustle and bustle of life and humor.
Born in the 1970s, Zhou Wenzhong is acutely sensitive to “the pain of our times”. As a member and a peer of the “Cartoon Generation” artists — as early as in 2004, the artist won the gold award for his paintings characterized by a manifestation of maturity, calmness, and darkness at the exhibition Ideal of New Generation held at the He Xiangning Art Museum — his initial focus was on the pain of our times, which evoked bitter, disturbing memories from the past. At the same time, he established himself as an emerging artist and his own fame and status because of a series of avant-garde paintings that depicted a young person being forced to dunk their upper body in the messy flush toilet and being violently abused. However, Zhou Wenzhong has built a visual vocabulary that is more restricted and acute, which is deeply influenced by Francis Bacon’s painterly style characterized by nightmare and violence. After the 2007 solo exhibition Morning Glow, Zhou Wenzhong gradually shifted from the early experience that was unsettling, absurd, and nerve-wracking to enthusiastic attention to the disadvantaged group of people like the pain of our times in the rapid process of modernization. During this period, influenced by the German artists Neo Rauch and Francis Bacon, he created many paintings being divided by sharp diagonal lines — such as architectural lines, highways, pipes, power poles, tree branches, falling passers-by being twisted and curled, wanderers, ragpickers, amateur singers, and kinslayers — all of which created an appalling spectacle of society.
Recently, however, Zhou Wenzhong’s paintings have shifted from a clear-cut “societal narrative” to a series of more obscure and mystifying metaphors for society. Even though retaining properly complete images and scenes, social identities of the figures have been eradicated in the works created in 2019, including The Farmer and the Snake, Double Happiness, Dream Eater, and Flickering Candle. Meanwhile, the scenes appeared to be distorted and deformed in a magic manner, which seemingly constructed a surreal, absurd spectacle beyond description. After 2000, profound figures and scenes gave way to the hustle and bustle of the absurd wasteland that brought together twisted and rotated abstract brushstrokes, fragmented figures, and ghostly monsters, as manifested in Fitzini’s Temptation, Moon/Preacher/Beast, Earthworm, and Rice Monkey. Such a shift doesn’t mean that the artist has no longer paid attention to the pain of our times hidden in the advancement of modernization — as a matter of fact, there is always a realistic entry point noticeable in his magical and monstrous theatrical scenes — instead, it suggests that “the pain of our times” has transformed from a social issue into a spiritual issue of human, that being said, in his viewpoint, reality ends with poetry, the end of sensibility is an absurdity, and “the pain of our times” is the pain of humanity in the end. As a result, Zhou Wenzhong’s artistic language has been freed from the influences of Neo Rauch’s societal narrative and Francis Bacon’s violence in art and has rebuilt a system of Expressionist language that is uniquely grotesque and cryptic. It stemmed from Hieronymus Bosch, Francis Bacon, and Francisco Goya’s constantly inspirational sequence of dark artistic ideas and was based on severe and acute experiences in society in addition to intense feelings and random thoughts.
The above text is an excerpt from Fitzini’s Temptation: Zhou Wenzhong’s Magic Theater by Fang Zhiling
Zhou Wenzhong, Chinese, b.1974, Jiangsu, graduated from Nanjing Arts Institute. Currently lives and works in Yangzhou. In 2004, Zhou won the gold medal at "Ideal of New Generation: Chinese New Generation Artist Award Exhibition" in He Xiangning Art Museum.
Fang Zhiling, born in the 1970s, is an art critic, independent curator, director of the gallery of Hubei Provincial Academy of Fine Arts. He has constantly observed and studied the relationship between China and international contemporary art and their development and evolvement.