PEOPLEText: Hiromi Nomoto

“Hello. My name is ZAKA. I don’t reveal myself. I am looking for a gallery which will work with me as an anonymous artist. I attached my works and project proposal. Are you interested?” That was about one and a half years ago Chen Xixing of Don Gallery received that mail.

It is hard to see because they were piled up, this work consists of 15 cubes. “C3H6N6, Guise (Melamine)”, FRP/acrylic gouache 300 x 288 x 50 mm, 2012 2007 –2008 © Don Gallery

This article is about one artist who is active in Shanghai. ZAKA is a male artist in his 30’s currently working in Shanghai who has received an art education. There isn’t any more information about ZAKA except for this. There is no portrait either.

Suddenly one afternoon, Chen Xixing had a new contact. At the Shell Economics event held at the Shanghai World Financial Center in 2011, there was a bartering system, where we exchange something for works of art. This included cash vouchers but not money. At that time in exchange for ZAKA’s work, “Spring,” I agreed to introduce him in SHFT, but I didn’t have any contact with him after that. Then it was recommended to me that I write this article about ZAKA.

Installation view © 2007–2008 Don Gallery

Don Gallery, which represents a few young artists, is on the second floor of Blackstone Apartment, in Middle Fuxing Road. This building was built in 1924, with beautiful stairs to the upper terrace that catches our eyes at the entrance. Despite a lot of elegant building made during concessions, this building stands out among them.

“Pr Spectrum”, Acrylic gouache/ wood panel / readymade fabric 1100 x 1220 x 60 mm, 2012, © 2007- 2008 Don Gallery

Chen Xixing invited me when I visited Don Gallery. ZAKA’s solo exhibition “Halo” opened on September 7. “Halo” means aureola. The exhibition had two dimensional works in one part and three dimensional works in another. But his two dimensional works were made on canvas with wood and FRP, so they are almost like 3 dimensional works. The work followed the main theme of “spectrum” and had wooden parts on the canvas covered by ready-made fabric, then paint in a shade that is close to the color of the fabric on the wood part. It focused on the contrast of shape, line color and figure.

In the three dimensional works, he used one material as a theme and titled the work in response to that material. For example in his work “C3H6N6, Guise (Melamine)” he used the material Meramin, which became social problem in China 2008 as a motif, and he titled the work according to his reflection on the material. Also Meramin is C3H6N6 in chemical formula. There are 3 materials which show C, 6 materials for H, 6 materials for N, and he mixed them as he wanted.

“C17H19NO3, Placebo (Morphine)”, FRP / acrylic gouache, 370 x 650 x 290 mm, 2012 © 2007-2008 Don Gallery

I asked a couple of questions to Chen Xixing about ZAKA.

ZAKA joined a group exhibition, but none of the artists showing works in the exhibition know who ZAKA is. Have you ever met him?

No I hadn’t met him either. I searched for him for a year after he contacted me. I see him as a very earnest artist during my contact with him. Then I decided to have his exhibition in our gallery.

How did he come to join the group exhibition of young artists of China “+Follow” in the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai in 2010?

I recommended him to the museum, saying “I know a very unique artist”
They seemed to find interest in ZAKA’s concept.

“C8H11NO2, Happiness”, FRP/Acrylic gouache, 100 x 100 x 800mm, 2012 © 2007 – 2008 Don Gallery)

Is it possible that he is an artist who is already active under a different name? How about Ding Yi who uses ready-made fabric for his work?Shift: Is it possible that he is an artist who is already active under a different name? How about Ding Yi who uses ready-made fabric for his work?

Ding Yi cannot be ZAKA. By his works, we can assume that ZAKA is a young, up-and-coming artist.

Installation view © 2007–2008 Don Gallery

Why do you think he conceals who he is?

I think it is a young artist’s idea of how to approach the world. Young artists face severe circumstances in various aspects, this is his way to express himself.

“Light”, Acrylic gouache/ wood panel/ ready-made fabric, 1100 x 1220 x 60 mm, 2012 © 2007-2008 Don Gallery

As Chen Xixing says, for a young artist it is a risk to not unveil who he is. In fact, we usually don’t meet artists or don’t know artist’s personalities. We don’t even know about artists when we appreciate art works. The most important thing is the talent as an artist, no matter how they approach. Joining several exhibitions during this one year and a half proves that ZAKA has such an ability.

At the opening party it was not only me who wondered “perhaps ZAKA is here now,” and “Have I had a conversation with ZAKA here?” I just wonder what ZAKA is thinking about this situation.

Text: Hiromi Nomoto
Translation: Yuji Shinfuku
Photos: Don Gallery

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