Zhang Lehua’s solo exhibition Love in a Golden Bowl explores how meaning is communicated and lost through a process of reading art. Deliberately miss translating text and employing ambiguity in his Chinese text are ways in which the Shanghai based artist plays with paradox and irony to peel away surface meanings.
The English and Chinese subtext in his work often differ, a decision made by the artist to emphasize vagueness, and ultimately reveal contrary interpretations of life. In order to preserve the artist’s intended meaning two separate titles for the exhibition are used, in Chinese 鸾叹情 (luan tan qing) is loosely translated into English as a male phoenix sighing. The reference to the phoenix sigh of affection plays with Chinese analogy of a happy phoenix symbolizes a happy couple. A slightly altered tone, however and 鸾叹情 (luan tan qing) sounds likedluan 乱弹琴 (luan tan qin), which translates to rambling nonsense, a meaning Lehua has also intended to convey.
The English title for the exhibition is borrowed from Thel’s moto in the introduction to "The Book of Thel,” a poem by William Blake (1789).
Can the eagle see what is in the pit,
Or wilt thou go ask the mole?
Can wisdom be put in a silver rod,
Or Love in a golden bowl
The reference of Lehua as a post-modern Blake draws comparisons from the themes of maturation and sexual experience in Blake’s poetry to the young and naïve coming of age scenarios in Lehua’s artwork. Both poets share an interest with alienation of authority, Blake in his theological references and resentment towards the state church and Lehua in his animosity towards mainstream society and mockery of educational doctrine. While both artists are sincere in his criticism, an element of moronic satire is emphasized Lehua’s works.
In a showcase of painting, video and installation, Love in a Golden Bowl discusses culturally sensitive issues via popular topics among China's youth. Join us on Saturday February 2nd for the exhibition preview opening. The artist will be present.