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According to Borges’s novel “The Garden of Forking Paths”, Zhai Liang has created three groups of works. Those presented in A Thousand Plateaus Art Space in 2011 was of the first group, now he is presenting the second. For the audience, to understand both, they must know something about the novel “The Garden of Forking Paths”, which was based on the background of World War I.
According to Borges’s novel “The Garden of Forking Paths”, Zhai Liang has created three groups of works. Those presented in A Thousand Plateaus Art Space in 2011 was of the first group, now he is presenting the second. For the audience, to understand both, they must know something about the novel “The Garden of Forking Paths”, which was based on the background of World War I. Detective and quest, it tells a story intertwined with friend and foe. To pass intelligence, the protagonist had to kill an irrelevant man just for his name, which stood for a code. However, after the encounter, with whom he was going to kill, the protagonist had a long chat. Starting from a mysterious garden, they began a discussion of the time. However, in order to complete the task, the protagonist eventually killed the innocent man. As can be seen, it is quite a readable novel. It attracts readers with suspense set, the understanding of time, and the ups and downs of the plot, while the overall frame unified in a compassionate emotion caused by the war.
For Zhai Liang, it is the plot and the wonderful narrative that changed into his power and basis of transferring the circumstances and feelings to the picture, as he says, “to give the paintings a magical feeling and a model like the universe”. In the previous exhibition, Zhai Liang had depicted some images according to the novel. There were few narrative ingredients in his paintings, instead, he just showed some basic figures or strange scenes. Therefore, the audience can hardly understand those images without familiarity with the plots; even they know the plots well, on the riddle images, they still need to guess the role, motivation, and relationship of the characters. Besides, the works of last exhibition were always related on plots and logic. This relationship was also based on the basis of the explanation of plots to the images, which made the works combined into a reminiscent whole.
In this exhibition, Zhai Liang describes how he felt about the story mainly with images; same time, as a literary critic, combining with his own understanding of subjects including psychological analysis and physics, he analyses and comments the novel, and presents them in the form of images. Same as the works last time, the new ones are based on weird characters and scenes, however, according to Zhai Liang’s idea, audience need to change their way of reading, because most of the time, those hidden behind the images are no longer plots, but Zhai Liang’s own impressions. There is no longer a coherent narrative between the works exhibited this time, instead, they are independent as fragmented reviews to the plots behind the early works.
It is the relationship between the images and explanations that made these works interpreted literally; this kind of literary comes from more literary lyricism than references to other disciplines. For example, in the work “A Thief of Time”, Zhai Liang depicts the skeleton of a mouse, which represents the stealer, such as the protagonist who stole time. For Zhai Liang, the image of mouse is not only his own view of the protagonist, but also going to make his view fictitious and changed into a literary way of analysis and feeling. He put these thoughts in this painting, also portrayed the mouse as a skeleton; on this, Zhai Liang said he was expressing an experience: “Even a thief will eventually turn into skeletons”. It is no longer important whether Zhai Liang or the virtual reviewer said that.
So, if the works of the last exhibition should be linked with the plots; works this time need to interpret Zhai Liang’s understanding of the plots. Not the plots, but the fictional literary critic Zhai Liang, explains the image. At the same time, between Zhai Liang and the fictional literary critic, there is an identity transformation, in which the reader becomes the critic. This kind of transformation, as well as the change of the way of explaining image, are both what Zhai Liang hopes to attempt in this group of works; in his own words, it is to make the image “has a soft metaphysics kernel inside the seemingly rigorous surface.”
The most valuable thing in Zhai Liang’s works is the fun of literary reading and the resulting thinking, it is also a funny thing to transfer the thinking into paintings. It is relevant to the relationship between literature and painting more than the understanding of the paintings. In this exhibition, together with Zhai Liang, let’s enter the bizarre plots of “The Garden of Forking Paths”.
 quoted by the statement of Zhai Liang.
quoted by Zhai Liang’s interview.
quoted by the statement of Zhai Liang.