Shanglie Zhou’ very name already contains the idea of bridging and linking. It is a contraction of Shanghai, where she was born, and Leningrad, the place where her father was staying at the time of her birth. In her youth, her experience of art was a mixture of Chinese elements and forays into Western art perception. Exploring other models does not necessarily lead to the destruction of one’s own familiar patterns. When she left her country and came to study in Antwerp, her work evolved from the two-dimensional to the possibilities offered by real space. In her recent works, she likes to make use of an environment in which as little as possible is artificially created. Preferably, a room where people simply gather to do commonplace things. In that sense, she does not make use of a traditional studio. Instead, hers is a room that can be shared by anyone. To create a work, she likes to go by the conditions that are given by the context itself. Simply showing a work, as a pure object to look at, is not enough. Like a rhizome, it springs from an environment, in order to entice it to communicate, from the inside out. This can go so far that the work simply does not exist if the spectator or participant remains passive. In the end, the completion of a work always lies with the viewer, only, this artist invites a more active participation. The emphasis ties more on the Situation, which issues from the objects, than on the attention to the physical state of the things themselves. Instead of claiming sovereign autonomy, she wants the work to connect to its surroundings. Thus, her intervention becomes a kind of social fabric, which may direct, but does not canalise in a dominant way. This approach releases the work of art from its traditional pedestalish status, with the danger of actually negating it, or even destroying it. This risk of negation or destruction is part of the fullness of dialogue. It points all the more to the vulnerability of both communication and art and life, which simply blend into each other.

Stef Van Bellingen

De Warande, Turnhout