On view at chi K11 art museum, the dual solo exhibition of artists Zhang Enli and Oscar Murillo brings together their most recent works, attempting to establish a dialogue between the two artists and explore the conceptual affinity between their bodies of work.
A celebrated Chinese painter today, Zhang Enli is best known for his minute portrayal of the lives of ordinary people and the intrigue of everyday objects or happenings. In recent years, Zhang has devoted himself to exploring alternative ways of experiencing painting by drawing inspiration from architectural surfaces, spaces, and environments. This new direction in his practice is reflected in this exhibition through a succinct presentation of three of his recent works. The highlight of this exhibition is Studio, a painting installation that the artist created during his residency at The Royal Academy of Arts last year as part of the artist-in-residence programme co-presented by K11 Art Foundation and the Academy. This installation is a room-sized wooden structure with Zhang’s paintings inside. Visitors are invited to enter it—and hence they can travel between the past and the present—to trace the marks that Zhang left in it as he painted; at the same time, new marks are created by the visitors as they walk in it. Zhang’s second work, Untitled (Tiles), is a series of red-and-white checkered paintings, installed on the ground to resemble the tiles commonly used for flooring in the 1920s and 1930s Shanghai. Also on display is Space Painting. This work sees the artist apply gouache directly to the walls of the museum to create an immersive environment with a nostalgic touch. Crucially, with their sheer volume and lack of a traditional canvas frame, the three works effectively transform spectatorship, leading the audience to explore the layers of ‘marks’ in different ‘painterly spaces’.
Similar to Zhang’s works, Murillo’s are concerned with physical environments—in his case, these environments are places like planes and hotels because he is constantly in transit. For example, his flight series, which is suspended from the ceiling in the museum, was made when he was travelling on the plane. These drawings by Murillo echo Zhang’s work with their obsessive mark-making. The Institute of Reconciliation, also on view at the exhibition, is an installation comprised of canvases that are hung like laundry on clotheslines. The canvases are brushed with thick black oil paint before being cut and then sown into new compositions. From stitches canvases to drawings on paper to oil paintings, Murillo’s works allude to the disorienting movements shaping our contemporary conditions: capital flows, flight paths, and migratory routes. Murillo is interested in opening processes of globalisation to an artistic inquiry, and thereby articulating a nuanced understanding of the specific conditions therein. In this light, his frequent references to his home country Colombia through such materials as Mateos (in collective conscience) and corn (in Human Resources and The Institute of Reconciliation) should be seen not as a call for localism, but a metaphor for the displacement and flow of objects and ideas amidst global capitalism.