Zhan Wang: Garden Utopia was published in conjunction with the exhibition “Garden Utopia” at the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), showcasing over fifty works by acclaimed Chinese artist Zhan Wang.
Over the past decade, Zhan Wang’s predominant sculptural practice has taken place in tandem with an exploration of installation, performance, and video. By examining the relationship between material, technique and theory, Zhan Wang has developed a language of “conceptual sculpture” that overturns the traditional understanding of sculpture in China to explore the meaning of three-dimensional space in relationship to the phenomenon of installation art, an idea evidenced in his stainless steel “Artificial Rock” series. At the same time, Zhan Wang has used his “sculptures” to engage a broader social consciousness through public works, such as “Inlay the Great Wall”, “12 Nautical Miles”, “Mt. Everest”, and “New Plan to Fill the Sky”, expanding upon the idea of how art can engage with public space and the community.
“Garden Utopia” articulates the traditional perspective of a Chinese garden as a space for contemplation, a borderland between reality and fantasy to escape the trappings of the modern world and reconnect humanity with nature. It is this traditional aesthetic that Zhan Wang situates against a violently changing Chinese society, his works examining the tensions between landscape and industrialization, tradition and modernity. This is reflected in the stainless steel “Artificial Rock” series, which forms the core of this exhibition. Since 1995, the artist has been creating artificial replicas of “scholar’s rocks” (jiashanshi) by pounding, molding and bending stainless steel around the surface of particular rocks. After the steel has been shaped, it is welded together to form a single hollow sculpture, seamlessly merging a traditional literati object with a distinctly modern material.
Through the blending of reality into artifice, artifice into reality, this exhibition references the contemporary spaces we inhabit, presenting utopia as finite and concrete, as well as infinitely mutable and ephemeral.