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Lian Zhang: Fast Dreams, Slow Days at Nicodim Gallery Los Angeles
September 3 – October 12, 2022
Lian Zhang: Fast Dreams, Slow Days is the artist’s first exhibition with Nicodim. Zhang’s works hint at multifaceted narratives that strain from multiple directions simultaneously. Each composition is a theater of contradictions that blend past and future, good and evil, myth and reality, tragedy and comedy, interweaving allusions to historical moments and classical forms from Zhang’s Eastern and Western heritage. Investigating the connections between interior and exterior worlds, she constructs scenes from both personal memories and imagined landscapes wherein figures and objects operate fluidly between stasis and motion. Set within rich art historical tradition, Zhang’s works draw from Surrealism, Symbolism, Taoist philosophy, and her personal experience living in London as an immigrant. Challenging preconceptions through painterly narratives, the artist’s work negotiates a space for her own intersecting cultural identities.
Within Fast Dreams, Slow Days, gods, fairies, demons, humans, plants, and animals morph into and repel against one another. In Forever and Ever (2022), a half goat/half human figure holds court beside a circular mirror-portal into a traditional Chinese garden. Resembling the Greek god Pan (god of poetry, music, and love) the figure’s sly smile implies a sinister edge, where creation and dreams teeter on destruction and horror. An auspicious symbol in Taoist tradition, the gourd in his hand is a container that holds the elixir of life, a magical substance produced through Chinese alchemy. The gourd and the god are both capable of unlocking everlasting power, but can also be weaponized for destruction.
Her piece Windy Paradise (2022) questions and confronts the socio-political dynamics of the United Kingdom, her second homeland. The work encapsulates the beauty and strangeness of establishing a new home where she has built her family and career by her own hand. Also inspired by the Yu Xiuhua poem “Wind Blow,” Zhang’s painting acts as a visual homage to the text. The poem discusses the life cycle of a morning glory, whose petals open and close depending on the time of day. Zhang’s mother and daughter figures, skirts swept up by a gust of wind panging English seaside cliffs, mirror Xiuhua’s gentle blue morning glories, their vines climbing upwards, forever reaching for something on which to hold.