Gallery: Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Artist(s): Angel Vergara
Opening / Event Date: 18 Nov, 2023
Closing / End Date: 16 Mar, 2024
Jiang Zhi: Can I Become Better? features newly made figurative portraits executed in 2019 and 2020, a time of social upheaval and global pandemic, a moment when the anthropocentric world is under threat, when systems of health, economy, and mutual trust are in serious collapse. During this time, the artist made an important pivot from the depiction of objects and nature, to the manifestation of human beings and their inner condition. This ensemble includes works selected from multiple series, such as Youth, Mr. Beard, Human Body, and Seven Blind People. The exhibition title “Can I become better?” comes from the artist’s self-reflection and personal response to the question “Can the world become better?”. Despite a certain pessimism from apathy and worry, the artist expresses his passion and optimism based on personal belief and human reality.
Skeletons and skulls emerge as key motifs in the paintings. Building on the Christian tradition of memento mori, Jiang allows these visceral bodies to convey the inner state of being alive, an interiority turned external. The tempest of events and experiences from the past year overwhelms and hollows one’s mind, melting faces and dissolving brains, leaving behind the cranium. As the status quo of existing order and systems is destroyed and annihilated, a “new world” must rise from the dead. What would this new world look like? The artist thoughtfully asks about the new “self”, for the new world is made up of the connection of the “many”.
Jiang’s exploration of corporeality materializes in the Human Body series. These are sanguine bodies that are full of life force and vitality, as oil pigments become blood, and brush strokes show veins and musculature out of a chaotic background. The series ends with a Gericault-like composition in Human Body No.6, where a pale body, no less erotic, lies lifeless on an abstract ground. Life and death entwine in the now and disappear into each other.
Thinking about those who are alive and face a future in front of them, Jiang painted the Youth series in the latter half of 2019. The artist elicits the feeling of being young by recreating beings that are malleable and undefinable, constantly mutating and never settling. Colorful swatches merge into the canvas, as the smudged blurry lines allow osmosis, liquidity, drippage and slippages. The youthful figures take many contradictory hybrid forms, at once angelic and devilish, mature and naive, impulsive and over-thinking, sensitive and cynical, beautiful and abject, man and beast.
Seven Blind People is a series of seven paintings that form a visual parable, negating the centrality of sight and thereby challenges the chasm between optical visuality and sensual imagination. Jiang believes that only by embracing Formlessness and liberating the Form from its representation, can the artist become one with chance encounters, polymorphous relationality, and sensual confrontations. How would a blind person (those who are in an unconventional system) paint? There shall be no limit, but unfettered and pure creation.