As children we hear many fables full of philosophical theories, we believe that by virtue of those philosophical theories we will be able to cope with life. When in fact that is not true, because within the framework of what we call life, all predetermined thoughts have their place. But on the other hand, in spiritual, existing life we are unable to describe the fable of human life. Therefore, Zhong Biao’s creations entitled “The Fable of Life” are from the start stuck between a rock and a hard place he wishes to and is yet unable to describe, he expresses and yet avoids expression. The state of hinting at but not describing, forces the artist to make the picture of life into a space for the imagination, the record and experience of the form of that space becomes the major pursuit of Zhong Biao’s work.

 

Zhong Biao has created many symbols for his paintings, from the city streets to factory districts, from traffic signs to historical relics.    … The figures in his paintings wear everything from traditional dress to fashionable clothes. Their each and every movement is theatrical, this deliberate exhibitionism of action unwittingly manifests movement, and it is the humorous nature of their being caught rapt, that is a major element in sparking the imagination.

 

Zhong Biao’s paintings are a rich and attractive combination of the above mentioned elements.  He often pieces together unrelated objects, such as city girls and Han Dynasty clay figures, factory chimneys and cranes flying through the sky, deliberately creating paradoxical and peculiar imagery, changing the scenes of life that are part of the narrative. The powerful contrast between the coloured backgrounds, props and black and white figures strengthens the feeling of sunlight on the canvas.  However the clear and delicate lines in the distant scenery rather serve to make us see through normal space to the different/alternate. Therefore the reality in the sunlight becomes true lies, and the lies become the truth. Reading Zhong Biao’s works, we are compelled to meet with familiar objects in a state of strangeness.  Where we encounter a feeling of the abrupt, that is the bright point at which an artistic symbol attains new meaning.

 

Zhong Biao believes that given a certain distance, we may see that objects which are different to each other, opposing or even opposite to each other, have their similarities. In fact this is his pursuit of a unified mode of thought, because unification in its strictest sense remains a dream. The variety of life determines that individuals cannot extract eternal unity, but can only seek the connection between things. Yet it is this kind of connectivity that makes us avoid a vulgar deconstructionist view of the world – that life is merely the continuity between individual moments. We draw our conclusions from this, true art is no more than a reflection upon living and retrospection of life, or rather art is not the consumption of living or the expenditure of life, it can only be a recollection, pursuit, consideration and spiritual questioning.

 

The result of Zhong Biao’s treating history and reality, surroundings and figures as symbols is to terminate the manifestation firstly of living, and secondly of the emotions. That is to say, he limits the reality of living and emotions to the realm of symbolic vocabulary. Moreover, he is unlike the Surrealists, who work to purchase a dream-like scene of the subconscious. Zhong Biao’s paintings are straightforward, unequivocal, as frank and vivid as advertisements, but through a series of techniques, the artist replaces the quality of advertising slogans with an artistic discourse awaiting meaning. Artistic creation after all is not linguistic composition.

 

The figures beneath Zhong Biao’s brush are contentious and uncomfortable, such description in itself is like the moral of a story, but what is more important is that this changes the everyday perception of the standard requirements of modeling, giving new provocation to visual thought. What is interesting here is not mockery, playfulness or a trifling mentality, but the thought and surprise provoked between the abrupt and the awkward.

 

Zhong Biao’s works are a classic example of differentiated realism, they have a unique appearance amongst creations with a metropolitan theme. One of the key features of Chinese oil paintings in the 90s was the movement from native soil to the metropolis. Today, metropolitan living combines the questions of basic survival, of culture and of the spiritual. Presenting metropolitan living is not merely a matter of recording a cultural transition, but a judgement on the state of existence and spiritual difficulties. Otherwise we can only float between changes of theme, contemporary Chinese art will never be able to shake off complicity with external forces. The independence of contemporary Chinese art lies in the artist’s ability to look into life with their own individual spiritual methodology and not a stylised patent. That unique type of psychological state has been described in Zhong Biao’s autobiographical writings,

 

Indeed, in ephemeral, shallow consumer culture, a fondness of time is conservative. The throw-away, functionalised nature of consumerism makes contemporary culture dependent on the rise and fall of the shouts of the masses. It is difficult for us to expect that the indignation of a scholar can change the tide of history, all that we can do is reflect on life in a way that is unique and yet can be shared with others.

 

That which can preserve this method, is art. 

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