A bouquet of congealed matter erupts into a poisonous yellow sky, the Earth’s curve rapidly descends toward a steaming inferno and then, just as it materializes, the illusion is shattered like a filmic jump cut; the canvas is cut away revealing the painting’s wooden strainer and the wall it hangs on.
There is nothing seamless in ZhongHao Chen’s paintings. While depicting imaginary worlds his paintings acknowledge contemporary concerns regarding surface, illusion and the absence of narrative. Joins are obvious and deliberate and no attempt is made to create a respectable or pleasant appearance. Pictorial illusionistic space is exposed first as façade via warped and shifting viewpoints and then as charade when the painting’s construction is revealed through untouched raw canvas, exposed wooden supports and paint expressed as paint.
The physicality of the painted surface is one of the first things that you notice in looking at a painting by ZhongHao. Its scrubbed and smeared brushstrokes. Its accumulations, mounds and clots of paint. It is paint’s materiality that guides, establishes and forms the images and the subjects of ZhongHao’s paintings. He fuses his images and the raw material of their making in such a manner that it is often difficult to see where one ends and the other begins. Process is integral and the images ZhongHao coaxes from the paint are dependant upon it. What he seeks with paint cannot be conveyed through any other means but paint. The vacuum-packed feel of digital technologies and its manipulations could never equate the visceral impasto of his painted surfaces.
ZhongHao’s bubbling protoplasm of paint has roots in the paintings of Chaim Soutine. Know for painting the dead, rotting and putrid, Soutine ironically imbued his nature mortes with a seething vitality. Albeit in a different manner, ZhongHao drags a similar pulsing life force from the surface of his own paintings; as conglomerations of paint form into primordial soups of toxic waste and fetid pools of possibility. Like consumerism’s forgotten and polluting trash heaps, ZhongHao’s growing multi-colored compost of paint creeps across the surface or piles up against the sides and corners of his canvases in dormant heaps. It is difficult to tell if they are the source of the images that flow around them or whether they are about to swallow them up. Funnels and drains discharge or suck-up colored garbage, as conveyer belts transport amoebic blobs and polluted clumps become ships that float on rivers of sludge. It is as if Francis Bacon had been employed to re-animate Walt Disney’s Fantasia.
Echoes of Soutine’s convulsing gravity defying depictions are also evident in ZhongHao’s landscapes where interweaving landforms, describing worlds both real and fantastic, collide, swoop over each other or hang in space like interstellar flotsam. Earth, air, fire and water pour into each other like an evolutionary scene from Terence Malick’s Tree of Life but rather than describing beginnings ZhongHao’s visions are more akin to Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. His lopsided worlds often appear as if viewed by overlords from the deck of a hovering alien spaceship. Like Clarke’s 1953 science-fiction novel, do the overlords preside over the earth’s last generation? Are the worlds that ZhongHao depicts like the Tower of Babel, doomed to collapse under its own weight, or is there a hint of utopian possibilities?
Occasionally in the background or on a distant horizon, a Hansel and Gretel cottage, Native American Tepees or the suggestion of a fairytale castle can be glimpsed as if to indicate an oasis of hope from the maelstroms that surround them. A refuge and relief that is extended in the humor of an oddly suspended apple and banana or when a row of Muppet-like heads stare back at the viewer. Or, when the detritus of paint dissolves into multi-colored mountains of psychedelic confectionary and the saturated colors of children’s toys, while pristine areas of untouched raw canvas perhaps hint at an unknown Eden or Peach Blossom Spring.
The Chinese Literati Painters of the 15th and 16th centuries sought through their painting to express the Taoist principle of that which cannot be named but underlies the nature of all things and which can only be experienced through the observation of nature. Usually in Literati landscapes there is only a vague hint of human presence as it was regarded as secondary to the paintings real subject, nature. In ZhongHao’s paintings a human presence is felt in a very different and disturbing way. Spewing mounds of paint, scattered fragments and detached landforms are stitched together into a Frankenstein’s monster of garbage, fantasies, choking color, delights and dark visions as if searching, perhaps in vain, for Taoist principles of harmony in a nature suffocated by a world gone wrong.
Lecturer in Painting
University of Canterbury
钟昊的绘画中任何事物都是天衣无缝的。在描述虚幻的图像世界时，他的绘画也在对如绘画表面性（surface），幻象(illusion)和非情节性阐述(the absence of narrative)等当代绘画问题进行认知与探索。画面不同部分的衔接非常明显，没有任何特意去使绘画成为通俗易懂和平易近人的尝试。绘画式幻象空间起初通过移动和扭曲的透视方法作为外表展现出来然后被当作猜字游戏（charade）一般通过毫无遮掩的亚麻布留白，割去画布后显露的画框和直接以罐装亚颜料存在形式而涂抹到画面的颜料将绘画的构建揭露。
颜料所覆盖画面的物理性是钟昊画面中首当其次的因素之一。 擦摩涂抹的笔触。 堆积的颜料。颜料的物质性成为了图像创造的启发，本质引导和画面阅读的切入点。他的图像与原始材料的混合创造出了一种特别的甚至无法分别虚实存在的绘画视觉语言。过程是缺一不可的，他在颜料中所诱导的图像与其是相辅相成的。他在颜料中所寻觅的是只有颜料可以给予的。真空包装般的数码技术与其运用是无法等同于他画面丰富的肌理与物质性的画面表层语言的。