Beijing based artist Chen Tianzhuo’s new solo show, “PICNIC PARADI$E BITCH,” at the Bank Gallery in Shanghai is not to be missed. On the second floor of what appears to be an old worn down British style building is an exhibition that will send your mind tripping on Cantonese dwarf rappers, transsexual gangsters, marijuana induced hallucinations, and live carnal performances involving My Little Pony tail butt plugs.
The young artist received his undergraduate degree in graphic design at Saint Martins and his masters in fine art at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, spending a total of seven years in the UK before returning to China to kick-start his art career. Europe’s creative environment largely influenced his outlook on the possibilities of art, catapulting his practice across a wide variety of mediums and forms. While beginning with painting, sculpture and installation, Chen dabbled in fashion and is currently developing a new leaning towards performance and happenings. Just last year, his solo show “Tianzhuo’s Acid Club” at Star Gallery in Beijing created a cult like gathering of artists, buyers, drug dealers, and everyone in between to join together in one night of dance and fun. The remnants of the party remained on show in the space for a month after.
The current exhibition at Bank Gallery is an extension of this interest in performance. Two of the main pieces are the videos PICNIC and PARADI$E BITCH (both 2014) that make up the title of the show. PARADI$E BITCH is a two-channel video that depicts two neon-yellow-haired little people, tattooed with Chen’s signature iconography – Hinduesque multi-limbed and multi-breasted women, marijuana leaves, hands, eyes, Ouroboros – adorned in bling, viciously spitting out Cantonese rap, while an eyebrow-less Asian woman dances between them in a brightly colored hockey jersey with LED light beams shooting out of her mouth.
Chen calls PICNIC the teaser for his up-coming “hip-hopera,” ADAHA, which he will be producing next year in collaboration with performance artist Beio. In the video an androgynous character puts on a space helmet connected to a bong and as he gets high, he starts hallucinating about a strange character in a sling and Sailor Moon bondage mask dancing butoh in front of neon lights arranged in the shape of a halo. The end of the video shows both characters and the two dwarfs, this time in silver and blue panda make-up, posing as Mary Magdalene, Jesus and the angels, in the death of Jesus Christ. During the opening, the wooden stage in Bank Gallery was utilized to stage an even more outrageous live performance by Beio and Liron Qian that is rumored to have brought some in the audience to tears of discomfort.
Chen’s work is a festival of cultural and visual juxtaposition, mixing past and present, religion and subculture, East and West, the holy and the taboo. It tramples over social norms of what is acceptable and appropriate, creating a unique aesthetic through garish visual choices. It is a breath of fresh air in Chinese art scene.
“PINIC PARADI$E BITCH” will be up at Bank Gallery until August 31st. To see more of Chen’s work, visit his website at http://tianzhuochen.com. Find PICNIC at https://vimeo.com/84060157. Find PARADI$E BITCH at https://vimeo.com/102807393. To see a video of his fashion design, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWEfBdLHHnw.
[All Images: Chen Tianzhuo(陈天灼), performance shots of "ADAHA"; © Photography by Zhuang Yan; Courtesy of the Artist]