This week, the energetic and inspiring Katie and George de Tilly, introduced me to the work of a great Chinese artist Yang Zhichao. His show ‘Chinese Bible’ opened in their gallery Chancery Lane last night. For Chinese Bible, Yang Zhichao spent three years collecting from markets and second – hand shops the personal diaries of overlapping generations. The 3,000 notebooks inscribed with personal writings span 50 years from 1949 to 1999. The show also features 40 pencil drawings the artist made based on pages from the diaries. Two of these drawings will be making their way to the Franks-Suss Collection.
The show’s opening was preceded by a fascinating talk with the artist at Asia Art Archive on Tuesday evening. Yang Zhichao talked about half a dozen of his most important works, mostly performance pieces, with the earliest dating back to1989. It was one of those occasions that made me so happy we decided to move temporarily to HK as this is not an artist I would have necessarily come across at international art fairs or mainstream western galleries and museums. But, with performance art so widely recognised and popular these days, I hope Yang Zhichao will get the international recognition he deserves.
Yang Zhichao is a multi-disciplinary artist whose best known for extreme performance pieces. These include a performance in the studio of his long term friend and collaborator Ai Weiwei, in which an iron bar was heated and put against his skin leaving a permanent burn scar of his ID number. Followed by a performance that saw a doctor medically insert (without anesthetic) bunches of grass into his shoulder. The grass eventually wilted and the artist was left with a nasty shoulder infection.
The softly spoken and thoughtful Yang Zhichao has made quite an impact on the contemporary art scene in China with his cutting edge and ‘painful’ performances in which he uses his body as a tool to draw on social issues linking the individual with the greater world.
Tamar Arnon, 10th November 2011