Ren Zhitian – 任芷田


Ren Zhitian is very much the contemporary artist of today’s China. His work is not built around the common themes that run through much of the work of his peers, marking him out as someone who creates for the sake of creation, as opposed to any grand, dare I say it pretentious, overarching philosophy.

Born in Hubei province in 1968, Ren graduated from Wuhan University in 1989, during a period when Chinese avant-garde art was in the ascendancy. The width and breadth of his portfolio shows an artist prepared to try all and everything to let his creativity free. His installations are at once bizarre and thoughtful, his painting classic yet modern. There’s an honesty and subtleness in his work that many of his contemporaries fail to grasp.

“My work is my other body,” says Ren Zhitian. ” I have no future plan, I want to keep growing.” This gets to the crux of an artist who uses a multitude of media to express himself.

Having developed an obsession with art at a young age, Ren’s personal growth has developed with his art. Just like when making his art, his mind stays focused on the job at hand and doesn’t wander, mirroring clear vision and concepts in the installations and art that he creates.

When asked about why he changed from using canvas to stone, Ren fires back: “That’s not true. I firstly used paper. I still use paper nowadays. I use other media, including stones, as well. As an artist, you’re free to choose which media you want. I choose different media based on different needs.”

The influence of Giorgio Morandi can be seen in his work. Ren’s Chinese ink paintings and his ash exhaust of gas on silk are characteristic of Morandi’s Still Life with Very Fine Hatching. He also credits Bada Shanren (the 17th-century Chinese ink wash painter and calligrapher also known as Zhu Da) as an influence, and again his own Chinese ink work follows the same feel, if not style as the Chinese master.

Ren Zhitian has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions. His works were part of the group exhibition Confronting Anitya—Oriental Experience in Contemporary Art, presented at the 55th Venice Biennale.

Ren Zhitian rotated a piece of land to a certain angle. The radius of the land is the same as the artist’s height.

The shooting subject is the camera’s monitor. Ren Zhitain aimed the camera at the monitor and shot the video. The video of the monitor is at the same time playing on the monitor. Once again, this scene is captured by the camera and displayed on the monitor. The process repeated itself on and on. In this way, the artist made a closed loop between shooting and displaying. The “language” being presented on the monitor comes from the machine itself. That is exactly what Ren wanted to express.
Shooting location: Ruiju Hotel (August 2013).

Wordless Elegy, Video/ Duration: 5’00’ (2013)

A man is watching from the opposite side, bringing all his emotions and feelings trying to make a sound through his body, but ends up with silence. He repeats again and again with full attention.

Sketch of Time and Space, Video/Duration: 12’06’’ (2012)

Starting from emptiness, a spot accidentally and slowly appears, deepens, stays, fades, and finally disappears. As it repeats itself, the rhythm of knocks serves as the punctuation of time, as if time can flow backwards.

Solo Shows:
2016 – Insight & Mind, Art Labor Gallery, Shanghai
2013 – Items & Intuition, Art Labor Gallery, Shanghai

Group Shows:
2015 – New Newspeak, C-Space, Beijing
2014 – Dreaming in Color, Art Labor Gallery, Shanghai


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