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"The Transformation of Things"

Alice McMahon

Galena, United States

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 37

Artist's Description

From the Black Butterfly series. Portrait of DaHuang Zhou, charcoal on mylar drafting film with moonstone Canson backing paper, 18 × 18″. From a reference photo by Steven E. Gross.

I am a member of the 33 Collective Gallery located in the Zhou Brother’s Art Center, Chicago. The Zhou Brothers have been generous to allow our co-op gallery to use the entire art center for our group show this month. The show opens Friday March 20th, 2009. The Zhou Brothers are always on hand at the center and are very supportive of the members of the gallery and of their artists in residence. I am fascinated with them, their persona, and their work and decided they would be perfect subjects to draw for my series, which always features creatives as models. DaHuang Zhou’s older brother Shan Zuo was the subject for the companion piece, “I Dreamed I Was a Butterfly”.

The butterfly is borrowed from a Chinese watercolor design, and the Chinese symbols stand for “passion-enthusiasm”

As noted in my earlier blogs, in this series the butterfly is symbolic of the artist’s muse. The title of this work comes from the closing verse of this Chinese literature by Zhuangzi – [Chuang-Tse]

“One day about sunset, Zhuangzi dozed off and dreamed that he turned into a butterfly.
He flapped his wings and sure enough he was a butterfly…
What a joyful feeling as he fluttered about, he completely forgot that he was Zhuangzi.
Soon though, he realized that that proud butterfly was really Zhuangzi who dreamed he was a butterfly, or was it a butterfly who dreamed he was Zhuangzi!
Maybe Zhuangzi was the butterfly, and maybe the butterfly was Zhungzi? This is what is meant by the “transformation of things.” – Zhuang Zi (369?-286? b.c.)

The Zhou brothers short biography:

The Zhou Brothers are one of the most accomplished contemporary artists in the world today renowned for their unique collaborative work process. They always work together on their paintings, performances, sculptures, and prints, often communicating without words in a so-called dream dialogue. Their thinking, aesthetic, and creativity are a symbiosis of Eastern and Western philosophy, art, and literature that informed their development since early childhood. Their indomitable spirit allowed them to leave behind their brilliant success in China, where they were hailed as national heroes for their early work, to step onto the world stage. They have since achieved international acclaim while continuing to work in the West.

The Zhou Brothers, Shan Zuo and DaHuang Zhou, were born in China 1952 and 1957 respectively. They studied drama and painting at the University of Shanghai from 1978 to 1982 and the National Academy for Arts and Crafts in Beijing from 1983 to 1984 where they received their MFAs. During the beginning of the 1980s they became leaders of the contemporary art movement in China. In 1985 they won the National Prize of the Chinese Avant-Garde of the Ministry of Culture and the Prize for Creativity from the Peace Corps of the United Nations. They were also honored as the first contemporary artists ever to show their work in an exhibition that traveled to the five largest museums in China, including the National Art Museum of China in Beijing and the art museums in Shanghai and Nanjing.

Realizing that the political and cultural landscape at that time would not allow them to expand their careers, an invitation to exhibit in Chicago in 1986 presented a timely opportunity to make the transition onto an international stage. The Zhou Brothers have consequently maintained their home and studios in Chicago while actively exhibiting their work nationally and abroad."

Companion piece, portrait of DaHuang’s brother Shan Zuo Zhou:

Artwork Comments

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