Nextup Art: Zhong Biao – The Universe of Unreality

Zhong Baio asks: ‘How can we face up to real problems?’ in his exhibition The Universe of Unreality.

Curated by Gary Xu, the exhibition is located inside the 16th century Venetian Church: Santa Maria Della Visitazione. The paintings are suspended in the air, tumbling from an active projection showing the Tibet sky on a 24 hour cycle. Upon entry we are greeted with a blank frame – Revelations – showing the future which is full of possibilities.

His hyper-realist realisations of his response to the question are some of the most beautiful and thought provoking works of art I have ever seen. The paintings, both apocalyptic and dreamy, explore the underlying emotions and inner feelings which connect us as human beings: the hidden energies of the world contrasting with the harshness of reality.

The paintings are slow. They seem to transcend time – whilst stood in the church, surrounded by 16th century gold statues and architecture – they manage to fit in perfectly. The suspension in the air enabled one to feel like the paintings were falling from the projected sky above, but the stillness of the church seemed to save them from dropping to the ground (and also the clear wires, just about visible if one looks hard enough). Concurrently, it was obvious how very different they were to the surroundings.

Many of the paintings feature apocalyptic-esque situations, often with the subject acting as a lynchpin to normality. Some show people becoming resilient and fighting against the dismay and despair. Revelations is the only part of the exhibition which does not ring true with me, I think it is rather cheesy.

The exhibition is supposed to make us think about the links which appear in time, space and the individual, it made me think about myself: my personality and how resilient I am. I feel the links in time are: the paintings which were suspended in the air, featuring modern technology – cars, skyscrapers – never reaching the floor of the church, which is over 500 years old. The space reference is the sky, projected onto the ceiling, although it may also be administered to by the layout and certain paintings which could be portraying other worlds. As an individual, I felt humbled when trying to work out how I would react to certain situations, putting myself into the metaphorical shoes of the subject of the painting.

The entire project – the inspired location, the exciting paintings and the projections – is thoroughly interesting, successfully portraying the visions of Zhong Biao. His paintings seem to be timeless – such a juxtaposition of ideas – often many on one canvas and transcend through illusions like the ideas we have in certain situations. One particular painting – of a woman curled up on a foetal position, surveying the destruction of the city around her – made me think. ‘How would I act if my world was destroyed?’ Whether I would be a Will Smith I Am Legend type character remains to be seen.

– Kim Kahan

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