“Paintings for me is just a different way to thing about “life” and “death”. It is means to experience questions of existence every day, through every brushstroke. So I think paintings are almost action works. In this process, the content of the image’s worth already acts as a research into the language system of the image.”
Zhu Yu (b. 1970) was born in Chengdu in Sichuan Province and was one of the pioneer artists of 1990s conceptualism. In his paintings, conceptual artworks or his early action pieces, it is very difficult to find any similar references to help classify what he is exploring in his artistic language. This independent thinking and deep probing into the semantics of contemporary art is precisely what Zhu Yu aims for in his art.
From the 1990s until the early 2000s, Zhu Yu’s creative focus was centered on action art. His Pocket Theology (1999) was shown at the “Post-Sense Sensibility: Alien Bodies and Delusion” exhibition in 1999 and one year later he received a large amount of attention and controversy for his work Eating People (2000), which in its shocking images and records of the action performance constituted a truly meaningful social incident. The conceptual work 192 Art Proposals for the Member States of the United Nations(2007) which was shown at the 3rd Guangzhou Biennial in 2008 took elements and symbols of globalization, human geography, society, economics, religion etc. and formed them together into a single fixed framework, which could be arbitrarily expounded to create a program for any country, while simultaneously approaching contemporary art with a lightly humorous state of ridicule and reflection.
Offering from 2001 acted as a prologue for Zhu Yu’s painting work which would come after 2004. The site of the action piece Offering was left-over food plates, marking the visual point of linkage to the hyperrealist paintings Leftovers 01 (2004). Zhu Yu’s paintings cannot be understood as simple still life depictions, what the artist is doing is delving into the inherent quality of painting by means of an accumulated bodily practice through various concepts, methods, visual languages and perspectives. From the “Leftovers” series, Zhu Yu continued to research into the language of painting in creating “Tea stains”, “Stone” ” Vestige” and other series over the past decade up until the present. Zhu Yu’s painting attempts to avoid any social metaphors, and from a strict critical practice extracts a unique way of seeing and reconstructing the world.