In the past few years, Ni Youyu has developed a greater interest in ancient sculptures. In June this year, he took his team to Sichuan and Chongqing to conduct a field study of statues in ancient grottoes. During the journey, he collected a variety of relics of ancient statues.
In his trip, he saw that due to natural erosion and human vandalism, the appearance of a huge amount of ancient statutes in grottoes were severely damaged and could barely be recognized.
Chinese people attach great importance to “appearance”. Integrity of the surface and preciousness of the materials matter a lot. Things that are damaged or made of ordinary materials tend to be neglected or even despised. But Ni Youyu found the fragments of ancient statues gave him more room for imagination, inspiring a sense of unique beauty of “imperfection” and “separation”.
In the Zilch series, the artist reproduced a dozen of damaged sculptures from North Song (960-1127) to late Qing dynasties (ca. 1840-1911) with white soap. Running water and bubbles kept shaping and re-shaping the soap, creating bodies and limbs that gave out a sense of abstraction. As the old saying goes: the passage of time is just like the flow of water. In this regard, these fragmented pieces were proof of the passing of time. Presented at the 9m²-museum, they looked like classic art pieces in small scale. Delicate lines, soft texture, a sense of history and a subtle fragrance of soap were mixed together in a highly compact space. Through the work, the artist attempted to unveil an aesthetic perspective that transcended daily experience and to highlight a condensed sense of history and consumption.
The title Zilch originates from a verse of Diamond Sutra: All composed things are like a dream, a phantom, a drop of dew, a flash of lighting. That is how to meditate on them. That is how to observe them.