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Xu Zhen (b.1977)
Under Heaven-2207FI1312
signed 'Xu Zhen' in Chinese; dated '2011', metal tag of 'MadeIn' (on the reverse)
canvas, oil paint, dibond
80 x 100 x 12 cm. (31 1/2 x 39 3/8 x 4 11/16 in.)
Painted in 2011
Private Collection, Asia

Lot Essay

Under Heaven-2207FI1312 (Lot 39), an imposing yet authentic piece by Xu Zhen, features a smorgasbord of visually overpowering and dazzlingly coloured cream rosettes, ranging from strawberry red, grape purple, pineapple yellow, viridian green, creamy white, to dark chocolate. The work resembles a beautiful wedding cake right out of the bakery with icing trim. These mouth-watering, edible presentations and creamed rosettes are fused into a Baroque-style copse of decorative, carved patterns. The otherworldly proportions manifest a facetious intensity and debauchery.
Here, the "buttercream" becomes an image of many significations: it is visually appetizing, yet conceptually bewitching. The glutton of colours gives way to affectations. Following old-school cake decoration techniques, the oils are placed in the pastry bag and piped on the canvas for the rosette arrangements on Under Heaven-2207FI1312 . In addition to preserving the smoothness and sweetness of the buttercream, the densely carved patterns on the landscape also embodies a symbolic universe. The art reminds one of a bird's eye view - or a microscopic perspective - of a carnival or a skyline.
The rosette patterns are fragrant and fragile, hedonistic yet licentious. The layered swirls and entanglements resemble Skittles, and a degenerate city of desires. Everyone has surrendered to a deafening, profligate party. The universe is a misshapen icing; from another angle, the marzipan flowers constitute a warped universe. The art reflects a China-inspired hedonism. It is pop art of the future, the new republic, the new governance, and kitsch of the 21st century. The subtle playacting of materials and the carrier provide a faithful rendition of the cold, hard existence. This seemingly incongruous, sensational work and the reality that complements it becomes a marriage of provocation and obsession.

Xu Zhen was born in 1977 and graduated from the Shanghai School of Arts and Craft in 1996. He currently resides and works in Shanghai. Xu Zhen won the top prize at the China Contemporary Art Award (2004). He was invited to the 49th Venice Biennale and has since exhibited his works widely. Recent exhibitions include 13 Rooms, Kaldor Public Art Projects, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia (2013); Xu Zhen: Forbidden Castle, Montanelli Museum, Prague (2012); Xu Zhen Video Works, Galerie Waldburger, Belgium(2010); The Last Few Mosquitos, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, U.K. (2009); Just did It!, James Cohan Gallery, New York, U.S.A. (2008); China Power Station: Part II, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway (2007); China Power Station: Part I, Battersea Power Station, London, U.K., (2006); On Mobility, De Appel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2006); China Contemporary - Art, Architecture and Visual Culture, Museum Boijmanns van Beuningen Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2006); The Thirteen-Chinese Video Now, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, U.S.A. (2006); Xu Zhen: 8848 - 1.86, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai (2006).

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