The Nature Collector-Robert Zhao Renhui

10 Jan 2015 – 18 Feb 2015

ShanghART Gallery Main Space

Shanghai Shi, China


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Zhao is an emerging Singaporean visual artist whose practice includes photography, performance, video and installation.


Austere and mysterious, his works explore the relationship between humans and the nature, and frequently appropriate on the language and processes of science. 

For “The Nature Collector”, he unveils new works themed around the idea of animal traps. Traps are a source of fascination for Zhao, who sees them as elegant physical manifestations of humankind’s knowledge of a particular creature. To best lure an animal into your trap, you need intimate knowledge of that species, as well as its habits, preferences and weaknesses. Zhao’s images of traps, however, are open-ended and unexplained. They are landscapes inviting contemplation, and are possibly, ruses: Is the artist telling the truth? A splash of blue in jungle landscape is simply titled Bee Trap, and what appears to be a photograph of small red balls hanging in trees is called Apple Moth Trap. 

Some works take on a hint of menace, touching on ideas of entrapment, punishment and sin. In Eskimo Wolf Trap Often Quoted in Sermons, a bloodied knife is stuck in a bed of snow. Behind, a text describes how a wolf, lured by rabbit’s blood on the knife, will lick the knife, cutting its own tongue, getting more excited by its own blood, till it eventually bleeds to death. 

Zhao’s work also explores notions of boundaries, systems and control as human beings attempt to know and catalogue the natural world. In “He counts the stars and calls them all by name”, a large photograph shows 4784 insects meticulously arranged and labelled with information of their provenance. The Biblical reference alludes to a complicated power releations between scientist and subject, human and animal, classifier and classified. 

ZHAO Renhui (b. 1983) is an award-winning artist based in Singapore. Among many accolades, he has been awarded The Deutsche Bank Award in Photography (2011) University of the Arts London and The Young Artist Award by the Singapore National Arts Council (2010). Solo exhibitions include Flies Prefer Yellow, Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco (2014);Fake or Reality, Galarie Anzenberger, Vienna (2014); A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World, Primo Marella Gallery, Milan (2014); The Last Thing You See, 2902 Gallery, Singapore (2014); The Institute of Critical Zoologists, Chapter Arts Centre, United Kingdom (2012); Living Proof, Bangkok University Gallery, Thailand (2012); The Land Archive, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore (2011); The Whiteness of Whales, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan (2010): If a tree falls in the forest, Substation, Singapore (2009). 

Exhibiting artists

Robert Zhao Renhui


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