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Artist uses snow to depict urban plight

By Lin Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2016-09-27 07:51

Some sadness seems to lie beneath the simplicity of Zhang Meng's video works and ink paintings.

In many of his 3-D videos, the Tianjin-based artist has created vast scenes of mountains and surrounding areas covered in heavy snow.

Born and raised in Tangshan, Hebei province, the 44-year-old says that although snow signifies a sense of belonging to him, he aims to show an anxiety that exists in today's urban life.

In some of his ink paintings, Zhang shows a monkey hiding among trees. The signature monkey painted using light dots may not be visible to viewers at first sight.

"As a child, I had heard scary folk stories about monkeys eating people. I'm still a bit afraid of the animals," he says, jokingly.

While the monkey seems quite comfortable in his works, its eyes betray an inner fear. Through this device, the artist conveys a collective keenness to escape life's harsh realities.

Zhang shares his insights of people through his video and ink works at the ongoing solo exhibition, The Wind Blows, at Beijing's Today Art Museum.

A graduate in lithography from the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, he shifted to 3-D videos in the late 1990s, and now heads his alma mater's video art department. He does experimental ink art, too.

Exhibition curator Lu Yinghua says that Zhang's works communicate a head-on examination of people. The approach shared by many artists of his generation responds to the rising culture of consumerism in China since the early 1990s, accompanied by voids in their personal lives.

This is quite different from artists from the late 1970s and '80s who often created "high-handed and macroscopic perspectives", says Lu.

It took Zhang a year to complete his latest video on show, Fierce Tigers with Golden Chains. The work shows two chained tigers running far from a forest toward the audience amid snowfall.

The animals reveal a crisis that affects everyone living in this world, Zhang says.

"Although I love the snow, I feel that it sometimes glosses over our circumstances, leaving us unprepared for approaching troubles."

He also displays three works based on Green Bean Heaven, an unfinished collection of essays he has been writing for a decade recalling his childhood.

In the videos, he tries to bring back memories and pieces them together to create fantasy scenarios.

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