Zhu Jinshi presents "Du Fu Tower" at the Chengdu Biennale
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Zhu Jinshi presents "Du Fu Tower" at the Chengdu Biennale
Zhu Jinshi, Du Fu Tower, 2023, Xuan paper, steel frame, Courtesy of the artist and Chengdu Biennale.

CHENGDU.- Presented on occasion of the 2023 Chengdu Biennale, Zhu Jinshi’s Du Fu Tower stands nearly 40 feet tall and is meticulously constructed with featherlight sheets of Xuan paper assembled across a towering steel infrastructure. This site-specific work nods to a pagoda within the Du Fu Thatched Cottage national heritage site, an architectural relic in Chengdu originally built in honor of the Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu.

Designed to form a relationship with the lobby of the Chengdu Art Museum, the installation invites a delicate interplay of light, shadow, material, and space. The textured surface of the Xuan paper draped in neat rows resembles the eaves and tiles of rooftops, evoking the transient nature of time and moments of commonality across human civilization, a tower of Babel. And yet, its ethereal atmosphere serves as a protective veil, a mirage that distracts from the structure’s formal austerity. Despite its apparent softness, the structure’s lofty hexagonal geometry is a tightly enclosed form with no entrance or fašade, the light emanating from within suggesting a utopic interior guarded against the outside world, like a fortress built for poets.

Though primarily known for viscerally thick oil paintings, Zhu’s engagement with installation started in the late 1980s during his residency with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Artists-in-Berlin Residency Program, and has since been a cornerstone of his practice. These early works began with explorations into the unique physical and conceptual qualities of household objects. Thus, as a painter, Zhu often turned to the basic tools of painting such as canvas, wooden stretchers, and paintbrushes as central elements in his installations, with a particular focus on Xuan paper that is traditionally used in Chinese ink painting. Through the years, he has revisited Xuan as a material of choice to create large-scale, sensorial installations that curve and expand through space, often suspended in mid-air. Their immensity in scale, patient and contemplative forms speak to the artist’s generosity of spirit and lack of inhibition while challenging the limits of material and creative expression.

The 2023 Chengdu Biennale and its satellite exhibitions bring together nearly 1,000 works by more than 500 artists, displayed at local art museums, art centers, and institutions in Chengdu. The Chengdu Biennale's academic symposium will see more than 30 renowned domestic and international art museum directors, critics, and curators from six countries to focus on two main themes: “The Development of Art Museums in the New Era and Urban Construction,” and “History and Future: Relationships between Urban Development and Art.” Starting with the local context and delving into the global perspective, these in-depth discussions will touch on issues such as the relationships between the city and the public, boundaries and integration, and humans and nature.

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