Robert Zhao Renhui
A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World
Primo Marella Gallery is proud to present A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World by Singaporean artist Robert Zhao Renhui, featuring works commissioned by the 2013 Singapore Biennale.
The exhibition seeks to document and reflect on the myriad ways in which human action and intervention are slowly altering the natural world. It presents a catalogue of curious creatures and life-forms that have evolved in ways to cope with the stresses and pressures of a changed world. Other organisms documented in the project are the results of human intervention, mutations engineered to serve various interests and purposes ranging from scientific research to the desire for ornamentation. These lifeforms are showcased in photographs and installation works that appropriate the coolly detached visual imagery of science.
Zhao’s practice intersects with and is closely informed by science, in particular, zoology. His work addresses man’s relationship with nature, and related issues of morality and ethics, paying close attention to how our attitudes assumptions about the natural world are often shaped by institutions of authority and the media. He works mainly in photography, but often adopts a multi-disciplinary approach by presenting images together with documents and objects, in order to test the principles behind the dissemination of knowledge and to challenge the ways in which we commonly receive and accept information.
In this way, A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World also questions the limits of these systems of collating, ordering and disseminating knowledge, by blurring the lines between fact and fiction. It oscillates between the modalities of science and art, thereby inviting us to consider the roles of these disciplines in our apprehension and understanding of the world.
Included in the exhibition are new sculptures which extend Zhao’s zoological investigations. In Nepenthes sg. rh, a plant that was discovered in 1897 by Kimiya Yui in Singapore, known only be a pencil sketch by the botanist. The plant is an undescribed tropical pitcher plant
known from a single tree in Singapore and has never be seen again. Zhao created a sculpture from Yui’s sketch. This is an ongoing series of work where the artist looks for species that were discovered but never seen again. Other exhibits include Unbreakable Egg, an egg that has been genetically modified with a plant’s gene to prevent it from breaking, resulting in an egg that has a wood like texture. Moondust (Journeys to the moon) is a collection of insect ash the artist painstakingly collects from street lamps. The ash is the remains of insects being trapped in the street lamps and being burnt by the heat of the lamp over a long period of time.
Zhao is one the most prominent artists in Singapore, having exhibited widely in his country and abroad in high-profile exhibitions and events. His recent exhibitions include the Singapore Biennale 2013, President’s Young Talents 2013, The Institute of Critical Zoologists at Chapter Arts Centre (UK), Photoquai 2013, International Festival of Photography at Mineiro Museum (Brazil) , and Engaging Perspectives at CCA (Singapore). He has exhibited in Noorderlicht Photo Festival, Format Festival, Lianzhou International Photo Festival, Fukouka Asian Art Museum (Japan), Photo Levallois (Paris), Seoul Arts Center (Korea), GoEun Museum of Photography (Korea), The Zabludowicz Collection (London), ShanghArt Gallery (Shanghai) and P.P.O.W (New York).
His work has also been awarded The Deutsche Bank Award in Photography (2011) University of the Arts London, The United Overseas Bank Painting of the Year Award (2009) Singapore, Sony World Photography Awards (2010 and 2011); honorable mentions in Photo Levallois (France, 2008). In 2010, he was awarded The Young Artist Award by the Singapore National Arts Council. His work has also been featured prominently in ArtAsiaPacific, Artforum International, ArtInfo, Fotografia and Punctum.