We are proud to present Black, the multi-channel artwork by Zhou Ke.

Find out more about Zhou Ke on her artist page.

Review of Black:

The young artist is knowledgeable of- and in constant dialogue with the rich history of Laozi paintings and philosophy. In ‘Black’ she uses the tools of her time to explore the properties of traditional Chinese calligraphy and ink wash painting.

In a sense, Black heralds a new chapter of landscape painting. First, one can argue the use of ink as a reference to ink-wash painting and the mop a comical and utilitarian approach to a calligraphy brush. It is important to note the utilitarian aspect in reference to the mundane and systematic approach of the covering of the walls. The rooms are being blacked out. And apart from the light source coming from an open window the rooms are each more-or-less completely obscured in black ink. This large brushwork of black calls to mind works by French abstract expressionist Soulages or perhaps works by Franz Kline.

The utilitarian aspect is reinforced by the dress of Zhou Ke. She is dressed in street cleaners uniform and she dutifully fulfills the action in a passionless and emotionless state. This emotionless aspect of working evokes perhaps the sentiment of government workers, simply carrying out an instructed duty or perhaps the intention-state of Buddhist monks, to purposefully perform a duty as an exercise of meditation and awareness in an act of doing. One can argue equally that she is both doing and undoing. In a closeup we see her covering up what seem like children’s drawings and a cabinet. The covering up reflects on the undoing of censorship or blacking out, a subject commonplace in mainland China.

Zhou Ke performs an action transforming the individual rooms with her ‘brush-strokes’. It’s what Francois Julien has likened to the ‘sprezzatura’ of Chinese ink-wash painting.

As she traces, she is doing and un-doing and the perceived landscape is transcendent between the ‘there-is’ and the ‘there-is-not’ it provokes an awareness of the fleeting. This subject of ‘wu-wei’ is a fundamental principle in Laozi painting.

To further the landscape analogy, we see the stacked frames in a 2 x 4 formation. Evoking perhaps the cut-through of a building block, ubiquitous in contemporary Chinese landscape. The screens/ frames are labelled with individual camera numbers. The footage itself is filmed with pre-setup surveillance cameras. As one views the artwork one is committing an act of surveillance. The action that is going on is captured within the black frames that holds the landscape in tension. The individual videos are streamed and looped with a randomness in such a way that it will never be the same twice. We are powerless as surveillance agents, without the means to pause or fundamentally see everything in detail.

This captures the essence of the traditional Chinese approach to landscape painting where the eye soars and is a part of the landscape vs the traditional Greco/ European thought of object and subject.


The work is non-political but sets out to generate thought. Let others help thought make its way.