ARCH REVIEW | Gaze in the Dim Glow
Gaze in the Dim Glow
Artist: Pocono Zhao Yu
Text by Liu Ziyu
“The Task of Alchemy”, Pocono Zhao Yu’s solo exhibition at Arch Gallery, presents a subtle sense of time traveling. As the title of the exhibition alludes to, it is as if the smelting and mysterious deeds of some spiritual objects. Within the whisper that fluttering outside of time, this enormous task is under the invisible dome of time.
Gold symbolises the myth of the sun, pointing to the royal crown of power, and when combined with all the sublime presentations, it gives birth to the imagination of the supreme one and the glory of history. Pocono Zhao Yu has been expressing her exploration of issues such as historical researches , migration identity and cultural evolution through installations, videos, mixed media paintings and texts, and measuring the individual migration by the scale of walking and cross-regional living experiences. In the cultural labyrinth of multiple contexts, she persistently explores her own alchemical formula and offers us a more profound insight into the meaning of power, historical arguments and multicultural combination amid the waves of globalisation.
Some ‘Nanguo pears’, hidden under their golden appearance, are experiencing natural decay and shrinkage, and they are scattered around nine monumental “golden bricks”, hiding passion and awe, yet evoking all linguistic imaginations. The title of the installation work “SUN, Southern kingdom Pear, BELLEVILLE 2021” weaves a clever intertextual phrase: power shapes utopian imaginations, memory and reality are inevitably intertwined, and the ambiguous ends of the spectrum are the two sides of discomfort and settlement. as poetically as the name of”Nanguo pears” implies a sense of separation from the inner self. We keep hearing the lingering echoes of “Belleville”, the one who keeps shouting from the shade of Belleville.
A huge book (Atlas of the Helios, 2022) is settled on the side of the exhibition hall like a giant book that has been unfolded. The “Helios” is diffused through the light, which Pocono Zhao Yu’s image analysis research around the evolution of the “Helios” around the globe. “Atlas of the Helios, 2022” presents paintings created by Pocono Zhao Yu over the past year, including “Las Meninas”, “Helios, wing of victoria”, “Helios, I have a dream”, and “X” series, with illustrations related to the Helios, factories, labor, and alchemy. Her deconstruction and reorganisation of images creates an arrangement of documents or clues, inspiring viewers to explore the symbolism underneath the intricate cultural symbols, observing the similarities and differences between the images to discover a subtle and interconnected relationship between metaphors in historical documents.
We follow the guides of the artist to the Buttes-Chaumont Park in the video “L’Île du Couchant, L’Île de France”, where the confusion and contradictions faced by individuals during the long colonial history are euphemistically described. Those pursuits and personal salvation rest in the text of “The Metro Station of Belleville”, and emerge in the love-hate relationship between the “L’Île du Couchant” and the “L’Île de France”. Like an answer to the riddle, the mirror beneath the table reflects the photo that is the quotation and the ending. The lamp, like an all-knowing being, illuminates silently the golden text – “You Are the Only One Who Knows the Truth”, which reveals the waves of history, the collisions and interplays between personal experience and the unresolved but powerful hüzün.
“NEWCOMER X” shows Pocono Zhao Yu’s photographs of “cross-regional life” permeated by Italian Cavity-stone, acting like a horizontal axis of time permeating the wall, along with rough holes reflecting traces from certain historical periods. The colonial remains and the “genetic hybridisation” of lifestyles, which coalesce into a “monumental” presentation of the domestic and the foreign, the new and the old, remind us that we are still living in a world where is still a kind of past, present and future that are ambiguous and mutually encroaching.
The “Alchemy” points to a certain sense of archaeology and creation, while the classical and intimate forms resurrect other feelings and meanings. In Zhao Yu’s work, there is a kind of secret language that transcends time and boundaries. We are no longer able to distinguish between “master”, “migrant” and “outsider” in the dialogue between the artist and the world. Like history and personal memory are intertwined, and there is always an unspeakable gap between them, yet it is impossible to truly separate them. Therefore, the symbolism of seeing is believing is eventually hung as a fictional puzzle for human beings who enjoy foresight; and in this anatomy about people, civilisation and time, we hear the rumbling song in silence, just like the hidden lyrics of “Have a nice day”, but are we part of it or are we cruelly deprived of it?
In the face of such macro contexts and constant resonance, “The Task of Alchemy” reveals to us: as the narrator of the true story, the figurative but insignificant existence in the mighty river, when we are obsessed with accessing the past experience in exchange for the clues leading to Ariadne’s paradise, how do we identify the precise narratives that permeate each individual, and how do we resist the traps and illusions that culture, politics, and power set for us in the continuum of time?
Perhaps, our memories are like lyric poems that we compose every day, and they become synonymous with history and utopia, both unknown and “where there is no place”. The exhibition “The Task of Alchemy” shows all of us facing a common and eternal dream with sincerity. We are able to face the ghosts of the past and yet have the comfort that we are not alone in the dilemma that runs through the past and the present. Even in the passages that we do not notice, the moments that have been obliterated or exaggerated, hidden poems and implicit evidence are left behind. There, dimly glowing, gazing intently at everything.