Colour and skulls: Zhang Huan show in London

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Showing at Pace London is the mesmerizing Spring Poppy Fields, a group of works created by contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Huan between 2011 and 2014.  The paintings are alive with both colour and texture because the paint is applied over linen, so the surface is glossy but uneven like a rag rug.

Close to, the works are rich in detail, abundant with what seem to be tiny mask-like faces, often picked out in red.  These are based on skull motifs from Tibetan Buddhism, an important source of inspiration for the artist, who has lived as a lay Buddhist for much of the past decade.

At a distance, the tiny details coalesce into big, shimmering blocks of colour, like more abstract versions of a Klimt landscape.  Viewing the pictures as a series is helpful because it maximizes the contrasts between the works: lighter, darker, bluer, greener, more pastel and so on.  A show both beguiling and disturbing.

Zhang Huan: Spring Poppy Fields
Pace London
25 April to 31 May 2014

Above and below: Zhang Huan, from Spring Poppy Fields, 2011-2014 (top and bottom images are details). Zhang Huan Studio. Photos: STF.

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