Since the lockdown, the artist has been making a daily practice of painting in his studio.
Primarily known as an early pioneer of video art in China who takes everyday realities and quotidian actions into heightened states of social, cultural and existential consciousness through his photographic and video practice, Zhu has turned to the solitary act of painting for his artmaking since he moved to London. As a process, painting allows him to solely rely upon his own skills and training – the Soviet-style oil painting education he received in China, but also incorporates into a medium of slowness the interconnected relationship between reality and fiction, history and the present, the personal and political.
While the earlier series of paintings depicted ‘social encounters’ [Mark Rappolt in "Zhu Jia: Recent Paintings" - see link below]—friends picnicking together, park scenes of sunbathers—based on photographs he took himself in London, this new series is made from reconstructed memories of his mother’s house in China. They are based on vivid recollections of details of the home—of a wall clock chiming, of a vase resting on a side table, of a kettle whistling. Given the lack of a photographic archive or a family albums, these paintings at once point to the lost vestiges of a specific time and place, while forging a connection to a history that seems to fade further out of existence.
Made during a time when the artist has been unable to return to Beijing due to the global pandemic and recurring quarantine measures, the works blur the lines between remembering and forgetting, between what is depicted and what is represented, between the photographic function of capturing a fleeting moment versus the painterly process of memorializing history.