Zhang Huan’s Family Treedraws on the rich traditions of calligraphy and tattoo to explore a new iteration of “body language”. Created after Zhang moved to New York, the work consists of nine photographs taken over one day, in which calligraphers wrote Chinese characters across Zhang’s face.
The characters refer in particular to China, its culture, and the names of people Zhang knew. Many also derive from physiognomy, the ancient Chinese art of judging personality based on facial characteristics. Yet rather than being illuminated, Zhang’s identity is increasingly obscured. Over the course of the day, the artist’s face and the heritage he has inscribed are subsumed into one indistinguishable surface of ink.
The Word is Art is available now, featuring some of the most impressive and important text-based artowkrs since the year 200, including works by Bruce Nauman, Julien Breton, Jeremy Deller, Tracey Emin, Shirin Neshat and many more.
Words by Eliza Apperly.