Vivien Zhang
Lorem Ipsum

Long March Space, Beijing / China

July 10–August 31, 2021
July 16, 2021
Long March Space
Middle First St. 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
100015 Beijing

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Vivien Zhang’s second solo exhibition at Long March Space, Lorem Ipsum, opens on Saturday July, 10, 2021. The exhibition presents 26 recent paintings and explores the artist’s recent experiences, introspections, and responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. The paintings are a re-examination of space and time, and further interrogate the processes of reclaiming and recycling in the artist’s practice. In addition, they continue Zhang’s exploration of her interests in geopolitics, questions around identity (particularly of Asian descent), and our information society.

The title of the exhibition, Lorem Ipsum, derives from the artist’s “Placeholder” series, created this year. “Lorem ipsum” is a piece of dummy text that has been widely used in the print and publishing industries since the 15th century. It takes the form of a passage in scrambled Latin, hence rendering the content of the passage meaningless and absurd. This allows designers to focus on layout and type designs without being distracted by the content of the text. This state of existence—seemingly normal in appearance but futile and stagnant in actuality—is analogous to Zhang’s immediate experience, and how her perspective on time, space, the creative process, and the everyday has undergone a shift in the past year.The artist’s experience of time has also become increasingly defined by epidemiological terms such as “10-day quarantine,” “14-day quarantine,” “lockdowns,” “first-wave,” and “second-wave.” Daily life—and time in general—seems to have broken down and been abstracted into independent segments. These segments are detached from linear temporal progression and act like “dummy variables” or “placeholders,” such that their continuity has become disrupted and, like lorem ipsum, they are seemingly interchangeable at will.

The “Placeholder” series in the exhibition contains ten works in all, each corresponding to a character from the archaic counting system of “ten heavenly stems”: i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, vii, viii, ix, and x. This series marks the first time that Zhang overtly employs Chinese calligraphy in her work. It is a fresh, key path for the artist as she continues her inquiry into questions of identity (in particular, identity of Asian descent), induced by changes in the pandemic.

And as the pandemic continues to unfold, Zhang’s routine has undergone a dramatic shift—from a habitual drift between cities and places, to now finding herself trapped in a fixed and cyclical space, moving repetitively between “Point A” (home) and “Point B” (work). Consequently, Zhang’s practice has become introversive and introspective. Motifs and elements previously employed in Zhang’s work (such as the Gömböc, the Mobius strip, price tags, and fragmented hand shapes) goes through further processes of recycling, transformation and renewal, ultimately forming a new open network.

Thus, another important aim of the exhibition is to illustrate the methodological development of Zhang’s work. For example, Spring (Inverted Arc) (2021) is a direct translation from Inverted (Spring) (2021): the concave triangle found in the latter is derived from the convex triangle in the former. Further inside the exhibition space, Re/Calibration (2021)—the largest painting in this exhibition at 3.8 x 2.2 meters—recycles and interweaves elements from an earlier painting, Palmier Calibration (2019). Furthermore, Geoblaze (2020) and Atlas Nimbus (2021) are continuations of Zhang’s interest in map projections from the last century. They are a means for the artist to interrogate geo-relations, geopolitics, and questions around identity, and attest to her concerns over the politicization and manipulation of the pandemic.  

Concurrent with the exhibition, Long March Space will also present Vivien Zhang: Context and Method in the gallery’s Artist Room. This micro-project will sample fragments from Zhang’s London studio space—including drafts, notes, and traces of “physical residue” from corners of her studio. They will provide a glimpse into the artist’s work setting and methodology in preparation for Lorem Ipsum.