"People create things, but finally become slaves to them. I am confused about who serves whom."
An overwhelming number of visual art pieces that represent reality with critical, ironic and cynical languages, is filled with gaudy, over-the-top and fashionable symbols and seems to be somewhat cliche. Zeng Hao's paintings focus on his living space and the scenery that he has been exposed to. Zeng depicts the common ethical standard for society that has become centered around consumption, whilst critiquing the dissipation of personal identity and psychological isolation through the contentment of materialistic goods.
Zeng's disclosure of detail intentionally miniaturizes figures and enlarges certain objects so that the objects and figures are equipotent in the space of his canvas. Representative of this unique style, Untitled, painted in 1997 (Lot 883) depicts a dark expanse of canvas dotted with people and suspended objects, with no clear sense of spatial awareness. Figures disappear in the background while objects are lit by a central point of illumination. This disproportion between objects and figures in size as well as light depict people as ghost-like shadows- as we strain our eyes to take note of their presence, it is as if we are straining to find ourselves in the totality of objects weighing down upon us.
The feeling of psychological isolation and suspended identity through figurative backgrounds with buildings and ambiguous cityscapes is seen in 7 October 2005 (Lot 884). Zeng evinces our irrational dependence on objects by the canvas's gaping space and disproportionate images, where any sense of perspective is drowned. As alluded by its title, Zeng introduces viewers into the artist's world through a diary-like commentary. While the specific dating of the piece makes it seem like it was an important one to remember, Zeng asserts that none of these dates and times really mean anything, for that day exists just like any other day, full of mundane daily routines overshadowed by objects, signifying nothing.
The inability to articulate ourselves without the help of objects presents a profound picture on our consumerist society, and is the life force behind Zeng's painting. Zeng's later works abandon disproportion as a means to drive his argument, choosing instead to depict large figures which blend into the background while the floating objects have become the main characters. In Untitled (Lot 882), the protagonist is blurry because unimportant, disposable material goods, such as the daily newspaper, Monday morning's breakfast and even toilet paper are crowding us. The floating effect and the silence that emerges from such misplaced importance, realistically and symbolically, has created a void effectively erasing our identity. We wake up everyday worrying about trivial things in life, removing our sense of self by the very things we aspire to possess.
Zeng doesn't rely on exaggerated caricatures, or on provocative symbols, or political metaphors. Rather the sense of three-dimensional perspective is all but obliterated. His space is one where time has stopped and all that is left are some trivial little objects.