Zhong Biao

Visual Archaeology

by Pi Li

As a sensitive artist, Zhong Biao has captured the pulse of China's social reforms through the visual symbols Chinese people are familiar with. He takes the visual experiences of an era as the image source of his works, including sculpture and china representing China's past glories, the labor models of the Cultural Revolution, and such symbols of modern life as McDonalds and Boeing aircrafts. Of course, most symbols are skyscrapers and western-style buildings in old China. What attracts artists is the different meanings of these images, because in the language of ordinary Chinese people, what used to be synonymous with corrupt capitalist society or colonization is now the symbol of modernity. With the development of movies, TV, printing, and digital technology, it seems that the way modern man receives information has already undergone the transition from text to images. In these new circumstances, images from different eras are frequently taken out of their original context and used repeatedly. And in this process they are continuously endowed with new cultural meanings. Zhong Biao's work is similar to the "knowledge archeology" described by Facult Michael. In "visual archeology" similar to "knowledge archeology," he cuts a section from the visual symbols people are familiar with, then takes out those fragmented symbols from the cultural deposits of different times, and last arranges and combines them in a unique way. What he wants is not to show the meaning of symbols themselves, but to reveal the changing meanings of the images through setting up peculiar scenes.

As an artist, Zhong Biao adheres to "visualization" to accomplish his "archeological work." Instead of juxtaposing concepts, he expresses himself through paradoxical scenes. While his early works usually juxtapose cultural images from different times, his later works are characterized by more transformation. He sets color dimensionality against time direction. The artist's imagination adds color to aged images, yet the images close our daily life are deprived of any color and context. Living people lose color, yet the dresses and accessories they wear, which are the symbols of the era, stay on. With the fading away of colors, the limit between reality and memory is completely destroyed and illusion begins. This illusion, rather than being founded on pure biological sensation as in the case of surrealism, is based on cultural accumulation and memory. If surrealist style is but a reflection of the identity crisis experienced by people during the earlier rapid industrialization, then Zhong Biao's works appear to have initiated a "new surrealist style," which embodies an individual's doubt about his knowledge.

Zhong Biao's unique work style means that his cultural attitude is entirely different from that of previous artists. Be it political pop or gaudy art, what they were eager to put across was their own attitudes, criticizing either ideology or commercial culture. Zhong Biao seems to keep a distance from this sort of criticism. In his works we find the calmness unique to intellectuals. What he considers is not how to criticize, but the source of evidence for our criticism and how it's meaning undergoes changes. Behind Zhong Biao's approach to China's pop culture and mass culture, we find a new cultural attitude. He is unlike other artists who deal with pop culture, who either mix their works with real pop culture under the pretext of concept, or use old handcraft methods to criticize the mass production of pop culture. It is possible that art based on handcraft and individual production is not a match for real mass culture and its media. The relationship between art that criticizes mass culture in the name of art and mass culture itself is much like that between a small flyswatter and an enormous fly. In Zhong Biao's works, we can see that through the creation of illusions and the incompleteness of images he gives up not only the antagonistic relations between art and mass culture but also the attempt to control mass culture. Through 'visualization' Zhong Biao has staked out his own claim within the domain of mass culture.




Born in Chongqing, Sichuan Province, China


Studied at Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now China Academy of Fine Arts), Hangzhou, China

Selected Solo Exhibitions


Beyond Paintings, Xin Dong Cheng Space for  Contemporary Art, Beijing, China

Splendid Over 10 Years of Exploration, Olyvia Oriental Gallery, London, England

Zhong Biao :American Debut, Frey Norris Gallery, San Francisco, USA


Chance Encounter, Chinatoday Gallery, Brussels, Belgium            

Zhong Biao, Zeit-Foto Salon, Tokyo, Japan


Zhong Biao, Benamou Gallery, Paris, France                     

Ubiquity, Art Scene Warehouse, Shanghai, China


A Chance Existence, Art Scene China Gallery, Hong Kong


The Fable of Life, Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong.


The Fable of Life, Museum of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Chongqing, China

Selected Group Exhibitions


Beijing - Havana, New Contemporary Chinese art Revolution, Cuba Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana,Cuba


Beijing-Athens: Contemporary Art from China, City of Athens Technopolis, Greece

3.15- Let's consume!, Xin Dong Cheng Space for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China


Chinese Contemporary SOCART, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia


The Self-Made Generation - A Retrospective of New Chinese Painting, Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China

Bologna International Art Fair, Bologna, Italy

ARCO, Madrid, Spain

Time and Signs - China - Vietnam - Indonesia Joint Art Exhibition, Jakarta, Indonesia

Oriental Imagination, China Art Museum, Beijing, China

Taipei International Art Fair, Taipei

New York Asian Art Symposium, The Armory Show, New York, USA

Grosvenor's House Fine Art and Antiques Fair, London, England

Now - Wiedergeburt des Mystischen , The ESSL Collection Museum, Austria

Body - Contemporary Art Exhibition, Nanjing Endless Contemporary Art Space, Nanjing, China

Singapore International Art Fair, Singapore

Temptation, Olyvia Oriental Gallery, London, England

Art London, London, England

Art Beijing, National Agricultural Exhibition Center, Beijing, China

FIAC, Paris, France


The Second Triennial of Chinese Art, Nanjing Museum, Nanjing, China

In Honor of ' 85: 2005→1985, Shanghai Duolun Modern Art Museum, Shanghai, China

In the Deep of Reality - A Case of Chinese Contemporary Art, UG Beyond City, Hangzhou, China

Grounding Reality, Seoul Art Center, Seoul, Korea

Above and Below the River - Oil Paintings of the New Period in China, China Art Museum, Beijing, China

Art Ghent, Ghent, Belgium


In Between, The Contemporary Oil Painting Exhibition, Tang Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand


People and People - Chinese Modern and Contemporary Art Collections, Guangdong Art Museum, Guangzhou, China

Chicago International Art Exposition, Chicago, USA

The First Beijing International Art Biennale, China Art Museum, Beijing, China

Third China National Exhibition of Oil Paintings, China Art Museum, Beijing, China

Image of Image, Shenzhen Art Museum, Shenzhen, China


Art Miami 2002, Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami, USA

Chicago International Art Exposition, Chicago, USA

Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition of Painting, National Art Museum, Peru

Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition of Painting, Mexico Post Palace, Mexico  


China Art Now!, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore

Chinese Contemporary Painting Exhibition, Salvador, Brasilia, Saint Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Next Generation - Contemporary Asian Art, Passage de Retz, Paris, France

Lust for Life, Galerie Piltzer, Paris, France


At The New Century: 1979-1999 China Contemporary Art's Works, Chengdu Contemporary Art Gallery, Chengdu, China

The Individual and Society in Art - A Collection of Works of Art by Eleven Artists, Guangdong Art Museum, Guangzhou, China


As Beautiful as Materialism - Chinese New Concept Art Exhibition, ShanghaiSharp New Sights - From Young Artists Born Around 1970,Beijing International Art Gallery, Beijing Hexiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China


Confused - Reckoning with the Future, Contemporary Chinese Paintings and Photography, Amsterdam, Holland


Walking to a New Century - Young Chinese Oil Painters, China Art Museum, Beijing, China

Guanshanyue Art Museum, Shenzhen.Pacific Plaza, Chongqing.Art Museum of Luxun Fine Arts Academy, Shenyang, China


Eleven's - The Avant-Garde, Taikoo Place, Hong Kong


History of Contemporary Chinese Oil Painting- From Realism to Post-Modernism, Galerie Theoremes, Brussels, Belgium


The Second Chinese Sports Art Exhibition, China Art Museum, Beijing, China