It is this context that informs the unique circumstances the Zhou Brothers found themselves in this past week in London. This collaboration forms part of By Appointment, an initiative for the whole of the London Luxury Quarter, the area spanning from Bond Street
and Mayfair to Piccadilly and St. James’s, celebrating the secrets of the city through intimate behind-the-scenes appointments with artists, designers, masters, makers, Lords and Ladies.
One week before the Paris launch and surrounded by the energetic, dark and bold Spring/Summer collection, it was evident that the artists’ work really comes alive when activated in these kinds of ways – drawn into the fabric of the contemporary creative history they are writing, brought closer to the patrons and younger generations their art is impacting, and illuminating this unique yet imminent moment in time when the brothers, finally, made their way to England.” -Lauren Xandra, Partner at Sinclair Global
leaders. For us as artists, this time helped make us understand many aspects of life. Can you imagine at the age of 12, being separated and moved to the distant countryside – you are sent to live in a village, with farmers and people you have never met? Here you live together, eat together, and work together; but you don’t have any idea when you can come back to the city, as the future was so uncertain.
AA: You started working collaboratively in 1973, but also worked independently as theatrical set designers in the mid 70s – how has your experience in set design / painting influenced your artistic practise?
ZB: How artists develop during their career often has a lot to do with how they grew up, all these experiences impact their future. For example, when thinking about ‘craft’ the idea of a carpenter later becoming a sculptor. Because we both come from experience of set design, our collaboration often combines many different types of art forms – performing, design, lighting, sound – all of these aspects have influenced our work. This combination of art forms is epitomised by our live performance paintings. For example, in 2000 we were invited to perform at the opening reception of the Millennium World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There we created live the painting ‘New Beginnings‘ and personally met many world leaders. The image itself becomes extremely large. Sometimes particularly for a performance we have some very large paintings, a lot of artists are fascinated that we paint on such a huge scale in a limited amount of time – but for us to handle this format due to our experiences – it’s ‘a piece of cake!’
AA: In 1977 you began an in-depth study of folk art in different parts of China; a year later you were both accepted into the Shanghai Drama Institute to study Western painting and modern art – when did you start to combine ancient Chinese culture with modern techniques? ZB: In the late 70’s we were travelling a lot around China. We tried to travel the whole of China in two years; we painted along the way and shipped pieces back home along the way. We also wrote a series of articles entitled ‘A Study of Folk Art’ that were published in several newspapers and art magazines. In China, we feel we
ZB: The first piece we did together was in 1973 (‘The Wave‘). Later on and as many years go by some critics say we are painting in a dialogue, however eventually we don’t need to talk and you don’t always need harmony. Our work is not about thinking, it’s about feeling; the painting itself is the conversation. For example, in many paintings, especially our performance pieces, we don’t discuss or attempt to plan a unified vision; we just go
ZB: We started our foundation in 1991 to help some artists from Europe and China come to Chicago and provided a number of artist residencies. In the early 90s, we finished our fourth major museum traveling show in Europe and in 1996 we accepted a professorship in the Hamburg International Academy of Art and Design. During the following years we taught and lectured at the London International Art Academy (England), Salzburg International Summer Academy (Austria), Traunkirchen Summer Academy
The Zhou B Art Center’s mission is to promote and facilitate a cultural dialogue by organizing contemporary art exhibitions and programs of international scope. As a Center created by artists, for artists, the vision of the Center is to facilitate the exchange of contemporary art between Chicago and the international art community and promote the convergence of Eastern and Western art forms in the United States.
We have also opened an Art Center in Beijing (The Zhou Brothers Studio) at the end of last year and are very excited about its future.
’AA: Have you got any future projects / plans lined up?
ZB: We have been developing our philosophy Feelingism – ‘Feeling is Liberty’. This year we have several projects. We are publishing two books – one is a book dedicated to our philosophy of Feelingism and the other book combines the complete history of the Zhou Brothers. We are also planning The Zhou Brothers 45 year retrospective, which will be a travelling Museum show in 2018 and will mark 45 years of collaboration.