Traces and Stains presents eight paintings by Yusi Zang. Looking at the overlooked, through observation and meticulous transcription, Traces and Stains aims to extract the impersonal and imperceptible forces that are obscured in life. In contemplating the mundane and banal - bird poo on a car window, coffee stains on tissue - Yusi attempts to overthrow our sense of the familiar.
Yusi Zang is a Beijing born multi-disciplinary artist living and working in Melbourne. Recent shows include Altered Routine at Blindside, Melbourne (2019), Flattening at C3 Contemporary Art Space, Melbourne (2019) and Family and Friends at Daine Singer gallery, Melbourne (2019). She also recently completed an At-home residency with Blindside, Melbourne in 2020.
MEANWHILE Director of Public Programmes in conversation with artist Yusi Zang (31 March, 2021):
Anna Persson: Firstly, these moments you capture, like in "bird poo on car window" or the dented bumper in "attack", are these moments you experience in life and think, "wow, I need to paint that"? And do you work from a photograph of the exact moment or memory in these instances?
Yusi Zang: Yes, they are all the moments that I have experienced in life so far. My iCloud is my main resource for reference images. Sometimes the photo is sent from my friends, like the car dent. But in this case, the subject matter is also what I have seen and experienced a lot in life. I think very hard before I start making, to think about the connections between those moments and myself. There needs to be a reason, I’m not an experiment kind of artist.
AP: What have been your influences, artistically?
YZ: I’m influenced by Duchamp, Agnes Martin, and Vija Celmins. They influence my thinking. I don’t want the final presentation of the work to be influenced too much by the artists I look at. When I look at them, I try to learn the kernel instead of the appearance.
AP: What moments do you tend to find yourself drawn to, in terms of understated beauty?
YZ: I don’t believe in imagination or making up stories. I believe in inhabiting. Because I think the reality is always beyond imagination if you look intensely. I tend to paint the object life-size and strive for a degree of realism. However, the meaning of my work is not the realistic illusion, but a strong desire to intervene in the images in my memory, to try to provide visual information with a tension of likeness.
Alongside Traces and Stains, Director of Public Programmes Anna Persson hosted Ekphrastic: Traces and Stains; a night of free form poetry and creative writing in response to the exhibition. The following is some writing produced from the night:
You remember what it’s like to swim
Even though your body hasn’t moved that way in years
You remember the way the light shines
In and up and around and how magical it is to be immersed in light in such a way
It is effervescent and it is ocean
It is swimming in the rain
On previously sunny days
It is an encapsulation of feelings
An incomprehensible desire to understand
How the light tricked you into being so swayed to the serene
It could have been you
Rushed, hazy days, pulsating coffee
Through coarse sharpness
There are cars on our street that
Cost more than what we’ve made in ten years
Not that it matters
It’s all metal and oil
A note of threat and not of apology
A shimmering set of curves
A melancholic destruction
Whose side are you on?
Calm before storm
It’s changing, as it always is
And as it always shall be
The clouds meet then merge then form then
It all happens so quick
Beauty lies in the gift of attention
And a handful of moments make a memory
An abstract, melancholic beauty
A skylight of an old car
Whose body you lay between
Skies opened up
A melody of silence
Meeting, merging, forming