29 The Merchant House
- Herengracht 254
The Merchant House continues with its Elements Cycle, as Zhu Hong joins Elsa Tomkowiak. Zhu Hong’s new tour-de-force paintings and drawings on the subject of water shine with meaning in this familiar, often politicized territory. Starting with photography as an objectifying tool, she makes her observations resurface as painterly matter, coalesced in the image of water as a life-giving source. The artist moved to France to counterbalance her training in Shanghai, and is known for her singular artistic approach and museum interventions.
Zhu Hong moved to France to counterbalance her training in Shanghai, and is known for her singular artistic approach and museum interventions. She will feature with a large installation, Les lignes de l’eau, at the Musée d’Arts de Nantes, scheduled for July 2021 to January 2022.
Zhu Hong’s portrayal of water is distinctly her own, in keeping with her probing, unwavering attitude to art and life. A highly praised young artist in China, she took a career risk in 2003 by moving to France. And she continues to defy convention in these works: the play of pared-down strokes, high-precision lines, and accidental drips and stains displaces our perception of the crafted and the elemental.
The works are based on Zhu Hong’s intense photographic research performed on location. The recent Kunstmuseum 1558 is a painted ode to a murky morning in The Hague; the immense pencil work Atlantique observes a flood of light on the ocean shore; and the small, purple-shadowed Amstel drawings recover impressions of September walks along the river and the origin of the water theme. Each is an electrifying union of subject matter and technique. Amid our current anxieties, they stand out as daringly elegiac in form. Fragile and soft-spoken, they insist on the immensity of experience and vital urgency we associate with shimmering light and clear water.
The project began in Amsterdam during Zhu Hong’s stay for the first exhibition at The Merchant House. She says she immersed herself in the layered city, both as an artist and an observer. She now makes a direct link to that time with an in-situ painting inspired by her Amstel drawings. An exemplar of her museum intervention practice—she will also be making an in-situ work at the Arts Museum of Nantes this summer—the TMH mural is a performative, jazz-like piece in the gallery’s courtyard passage. This courtyard on the Herengracht was originally the location of a 17th-century water well that served generations of households. Seemingly abstract, the painting partakes of its location and becomes a sparkling, ephemeral reflection on the essential significance of water in everyday life.
Zhu Hong’s solo museum shows have included the Musée de La Roche-sur-Yon (accompanied by the monograph 3M2 de lumière, published by Lienart Éditions, Paris, 2017), the Pôle Internationale de la Préhistoire in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, and the Musée Ziem in Martigues. She featured in Making Things Happen at The Merchant House in 2017-18. Her work continues to receive considerable attention, notably including a solo feature at the 2019 Art on Paper fair in Brussels, with SinArts Gallery in The Hague, and the two-part solo show Les lignes de l’eau at the Musée d’Arts de Nantes, scheduled for July 2021 to January 2022. Zhu Hong lives and works in Nantes.
Zhu Hong (FR b. CN, 1975), Elsa Tomkowiak (FR, 1981)