In an Instant: Moving Images and Photographic Works by Zhao Liang

19 April - 25 May 2008

For the year 2008 the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre will organize a series of solo exhibitions by contemporary photography and video artists. The series will research and display the work of artists who have long been exploring and experimenting in contemporary photography and video. The artists selected are in the mature stages of their careers, and the exhibition of their work advances the development of contemporary art through public support as they continue their artistic creations.


Zhao Liang, the first artist to be featured in the Three Shadows 2008 Solo Exhibition Series, has been involved in video art, documentaries, short films, and photography for over a decade. He is also the director of the Three Shadows Moving Image Studio. For many years his work has received critical acclaim from contemporary film and art festivals in both China and abroad. Since 2007, Zhao Liang’s documentary films have also won several important international awards, gaining widespread critical attention. “In an Instant” shows Zhao Liang’s newest photography and video installation works. Combining projections, installations, sounds, photographs, and light boxes, Zhao Liang’ s works unite and transform the exhibition space into an organic whole.


Each work reveals the artist’s acute observations of social realities in China. By exploring urban and rural life in Chinese society, Zhao Liang attains a penetrating understanding of individual truth and conceptually embodies the temporality of events and existence in his works. His works explore the origins of an event by examining the background of a narrative or the veiled layers of the real in an attempt to bring to light the mechanisms behind repeated and determinate realities. The subject matter that Zhao Liang uses comes straight from what he sees and hears in the real world, and his finished works present representations of the ordinary. The most important aspect of his works, then, is the artist’s attitude toward reality and reality’s expressions.


The significance of discussing the word “reality” lies in better understanding how to face this imperfect world while becoming conscious of, and examining the concept of, “perfect”. The first piece in the exhibition, the video work “Let Nature Take its Course,” documents a lotus leaf in the rain – reflecting the harmony and peacefulness of nature. On the other hand, the video installation “Interrogation Under Duress” uses naked violence to rouse feelings of discomfort and loss. Subsequently, a number of photographic works show various angles of people’s different states of reality. The video work “Crowd” considers the limitations of fate that a group of people encounters. The following photographic works, “Beijing Green” and “Water,” coolly and directly show the landscapes that best represent the massive changes in Beijing: construction sites covered by green netting and drifting waste in rivers. Taking an individual’s lifespan as a measure, the temporal concepts of change and eternity have an effect on reality and create a contradiction. In the most critical portion of the exhibition, the video installation “Heavy Sleepers” shows a slow panning shot of construction workers napping while “Narrative Landscapes” shows the Great Wall crumbling during a sandstorm at dusk. The works seek to extend the feeling of time, and comment upon the slight movements of reality that one becomes aware of in the juxtaposition of a slight flutter and a weighty, prolonged wait.


During the exhibition Three Shadows will also show Zhao Liang’s documentaries and short films, which have received critical attention around the world, such as “Farewell, Yuanmingyuan” and “Bored Youth”. Among them, “Crime and Punishment” won the first prize Montgolfiere d’or Award at the 2007 Festival of Three Continents in Nantes, France and “Paper Airplane” won the Merit Prize at the 3rd Taiwan International Documentary Festival in Taipei, Taiwan in 2002.


From the many different series of works by Zhao Liang we begin to feel that the continual existence of events in reality are actually only the result of one instant that has entered into our consciousness. Perhaps there are many things that, for some reason or other, we do not notice, but there is always the possibility that in one moment, we and reality can become one, and in spirit, overcome the limits of the world.