BY Sean Burns in Critic's Guides | 23 MAY 24

Five Shows to See During Gallery Weekend Beijing

Our tips include a suite of raw meat paintings by Zhao Gang and a trip into the monstrous world of Jenkin Van Zyl 


BY Sean Burns in Critic's Guides | 23 MAY 24

Hiroshi Sugimoto | UCCA Center for Contemporary Art | 23 March – 23 June 

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lightning Fields 225, 2009. Courtesy: © Hiroshi Sugimoto

 In a review of Tacita Dean’s show ‘Geography Biography’ at Paris’s Bourse de Commerce last year, I highlighted how she plays with time, writing: ‘it is the artist’s most persistent material.’The same could easily be said of another master of lens-based media, Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose major exhibition ‘Time Machine’ contains his most well-known explorations into the limits of photography and its relationship with time. In works such as ‘Day Seascapes’ (1982–88) and ‘Dioramas’ (1976), he produces images that feel at once universal and enchanting. This presentation offers the opportunity to bathe in 50 years’ worth of uncanny images, including new experiments in darkroom calligraphy. 

Jenkin Van Zyl | Hua International | 26 April – 15 June

Jenkin van Zyl, ‘Palace of Wasted Footsteps’, 2024. Courtesy: the artist and Hua International; photograph: Joe Clark

Hua International hosts an installation, film and sculptures from Jenkin Van Zyl’s series ‘Surrender’ (2023). The assemblage promises a trip to another realm. The artist continues his exploration of monstrosity and carnality, drawing from a wide range of influences, including the frenzied dance marathons that gripped the US in the 1930s and illicit Japanese love hotels. Van Zyl’s unique mix of irreverent camp and caricature grotesqueries appears mined from the internet’s hellish depths (via artists Matthew Barney and Paul McCarthy) in a relentless examination of queer subjectivity and its sticky relationship with capital.  

Zhao Gang | Lisson Gallery | 18 May – Autumn 2024

Zhao Gang, T. S. Eliot, 2024, oil on canvas, 1.6 × 1.3 m. Courtesy: © Zhao Gang and Lisson Gallery

Zhao Gang’s first solo show with Lisson Gallery, ‘Carnivore,’ features paintings of raw pork and lamb legs alongside portraits of Vivienne Haigh-Wood and her first husband, T.S. Eliot. (Yes, you did read that correctly.) This bizarre juxtaposition was spurred by the artist’s exploration of intimate interactions, with a particular focus on the couple inspired by a biography of Eliot. Gang’s roving eye selects items, and people, from his environment and renders them in distinctive, sometimes loose, brushstrokes that create a strange sense of unease. This meeting of flesh and deathly faces seems to probe the unhappy relationship between Haigh-Wood and Eliot, treating meat as an allegory for the bare human form. 

Su Xinping | Tokyo Gallery + BTAP (Beijing) | 12 May – 15 June 

Su Jinping
Su Xinping, The Back Shadow, 2024, oil and canvas, 81 × 66 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Tokyo Gallery + BTAP (Beijing) 

In The Back Shadow (2024), an oil on canvas work in Su Xinping's solo exhibition ‘The Walking Man, The Departing Horse’, the outline of a lone figure in a suit appears to disappear into an engulfing cloud of purple and blue. Indeed, the entire presentation feels loaded with a subtle but frank atmosphere of existential unease. The horses and men who populate the works seem burdened by a kind of hollowness, their interactions emerging as formal rather than intimate. In another painting, The Horse Turning Back (2023), a tiny brown horse appears neatly placed on top of another horse’s back in a state of quiet co-dependency, evoking both care and burden.

Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader | White Space | 23 May – 13 July  

Christine Sun Kim
Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader, ATTENTION, 2022, inflatable arms, partially polished stone, fans, electronics installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artists and White Space, Beijing

In their collaborative exhibition ‘Lighter Than Air’, Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader develop their investigations into the nature of communication and accessibility. Building on Kim’s renowned innovative use of sound in visual art, the pair explore the nuances of auditory experiences and their intersections with visual perceptions. With a series of installations and performances that challenge traditional notions of listening and seeing, the show emphasizes the often-overlooked dimensions of sound in everyday life. Kim and Mader encourage viewers to rethink their sensory interaction with the world; here, their focus is on breathing and air. 

Main image: Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader, HooHaa, 2024, video still. Courtesy: the artists and White Space, Beijing; animation: Jan Joost Verhoef

Sean Burns is an artist, writer and assistant editor of frieze based in London, UK. His book Death (2023) is out now from Tate Publishing.