Zhong’s visit, a series

[following will be a number of posts about having Zhong Biao and his wife Tiantian at the house over holiday season.]

What’s Zhong up to?

As I’ve noted elsewhere, Zhong Biao is a thoughtful painter, to put it mildly.  Engaging him on just about any topic leads to summary comments that are pithy, “definitive.”  Like a philosopher, he seems determined to nail down the shortest but still generally true observation, one not bogged down by, for instance, particulars of political policy or even historical events.  His notions of “xing” 形 and “tai” 态  (underlying force of the universe and its occasional and ever adjusting manifestation in the phenomenal world–in reverse order that is) are a good case in point.

So what’s an excessively philosophical visual artist to do with all these ideas?  Obviously, define them.  Thus, coming shortly will be the Zhong Biao Dictionary in which, in just under 200 pages, he’s going to finally put all of this in print.  I’m inclined to wonder whether or not the project stems in part from attending so many openings of his works and being faced with so many on-the-spot questions that run gamut from cogent to utterly confused.  From now on when engaged by viewers of all sorts about new works hanging on a wall he can conveniently reply: “page 23.”  Or, and just starting at the beginning:   “A is for…”


爱的誓言.i de sh. y.n






The Vow of Love

The Vow of Love borrows against future emotion

for present desire. It gives power,

but can never be anticipated.


Of course, each of these definitions will be accompanied by an image.  In fact, Zhong is rather adamant that this is a work of art, and not a “dictionary.”  The above definition, for instance, is paired with the perhaps still less definitive image (in regrettably poor reproduction):



Regardless, the Dictionary is slated for publication in early 2012.  I will say more about it in coming posts.


6 thoughts on “Zhong’s visit, a series

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  6. 道仁/Darren says:

    This is really interesting. I saw in an earlier post, that you consider the way Zhong Biao names his paintings as essential to accessing his intention. A artistic dictionary will do this even more explicitly. For me this recalls, Michael Sullivan’s answer to the question “What, and why, do Chinese write on their paintings?” — referring to the connection between poetics and painting in Chinese classical traditions. Do you see this historical connection with what Zhong Biao is planning to do with his dictionary, or by making it a “dictionary” is he trying to introduce a new kind of ontology which is more grounded in something we might consider philosophical phenomenology or metaphysics?

    By the way, you did a great job of translating at the Elliott Bay reading! Looking forward to seeing you with Xi Chuan tonight.

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