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Zang Kunkun: A Surreal Society

陈溪 Cecilia Chan 2018-04-08 17:11

Industrial materials such as metal are often used together with wood and by Zang Kunkun. Whether the flat painting or the comparison of the texture and device, whether the detailed calculation and intentional destruction or the combination of the real objects and pictures, there is no lack of his characteristic humor and thinking. However, the references to art history and the observation of the current social situation add deeper layers to the works. Recently, in his first solo exhibition at Mai 36 Galerie in Zurich, nearly three years of works served to present his latest clues.


Among the works of many different "styles" and series, it is not the superficial personal symbol but the elaborate conception of each work that can best reveal the clues of his work. In the process of creation, he is more inclined to continuously work at the same time rather than dividing the works by series, therefore a series of works with visual difference will exist simultaneously. However, Zang Kunkun's concept orientation with artistically enlightened meaning, unconventional perspective and the choice of media, make the unremitting pursuit of perfection and deliberate destruction on the image become the organic parts of his creation. 


In his work Basic Unit 2016, the picture frame is larger than the canvas, so that the canvas is directly exposed at the top, and the canvas tight on both ends hangs down naturally, spontaneously bringing out the effect from two dimensions to the stereoscopic device. The centre of the picture is a seemingly ordinary pile of bricks. The cube that conforms to the principle of perspective is crossed by a bold aluminum foil and the same thick aluminum foil lines are crossed at the bottom of the picture, which seems to fill the void at the top and create a new visual balance. In Reconcile XII, the huge board’s surface is carefully wrapped with copper foil, presenting an abstract relief pattern. Only when you take a close look, you notice that the outline of fitness equipment is outlined along the lines. The carefully calculated dimension is just the right size for the picture. Layers of copper foil, like paintbrush strokes, break this delicate arrangement with the wood-paneled surface. 


There are many similar "destruction” in Zang Kunkun's works. A language of control and relaxation allows his works to follow the mind and naturally breathe and grow, therefore his works are full of interpretive layers.

Zang Kunkun is into social totality, and his absorption of art history make his artistic expression form flexible. Even in the context of different countries and ethnicities, you do not need much background information to understand his works. However, the media he uses, and the subjects of his thoughts also come from his latest living environment, Beijing. Industrial materials, such as aluminum, copper, wood, brick, rope, and leather, record this developing country and the individuals involved. The contrast of texture and plasticity of different materials depicts that people live in a fast-paced world under the pressure of the environment, but also try to create the ideal society. We need to consider their order of priority, combining form, compatibility and longevity while also maintain the precursory nature of the finished product. The “unsatisfactory to himself” is the motivation to drive Kunkun Zang to create his works and the inner strength to promote the continuous development of his works.


This strength also allows his works to smoothly switch between two and three dimensions, making it impossible for the audience to decide whether it's the picture jumping out of the frame or the objects in real life are simplified to two dimensions. In his work, Container, there is the perspective view of the downhole world on the wall, while half of the well cover seems to be left on the adjacent ground randomly. It's like a game of disengaging and chasing, developing along the perfect white wall. While in Passage II, the huge aluminum tube protrudes from the screen and reaches the ground, connecting the closed space behind the two walls like a surreal science fiction plot.


This might just happen to be a true portrayal of the society we live in. In all the familiar living environments, occasionally skipping the cold strangeness, we keep asking ourselves whether we are creating the world or it has been running forward with its own vitality. You just can’t help stopping in front of Zang Kunkun’s works and think for a while. Observing the details of the works is a kind of enjoyment and is also a perspective to observe and recognize yourself. 

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