Grand Canal(2009) is a striking work combining ash and linen by Chinese artist ,ZHANG HUAN (b. 1965, Anyang, China) who lives and works in Shanghai and New York
Zhang Huan’s practice, which is both deeply personal and highly political, explores identity, spirituality, and the fraught history of his home country of China.
Zhang creates monumental paintings and sculptures in Shanghai.
Grand Canal is part of a series of large-scale paintings created with ash that was collected from local Buddhist temples. Huan believes that the ash, produced from the ritualistic burning of incense, is imbued with the hopes and desires of prayer.
In the studio, the ash is sorted by shade and applied to linen panels to create subtle grayscale compositions. The process is reminiscent of Navajo sand paintings and Tibetan Buddhist mandalas.
The artist based Grand Canal on a photograph in the 1972 issue of China Pictorial, a publication that was instrumental in promoting the Cultural Revolution in China. The image references one of the many misguided industrial projects executed by Mao Zedong in the late 1950s that led to widespread poverty and famine. Zhang uses found images and the ashes of anonymous prayers to connect to history and create a monument to the many faceless laborers who toiled during the Cultural Revolution.
Text and image: Courtedy, Marciano Art Foundation , Los Angeles