Miranda Fengyuan Zhang: A World Without Us, at Capsule Shanghai, Shanghai

Miranda Fengyuan Zhang
A World Without Us
Capsule Shanghai, Shanghai
1st Floor, Building 16, Anfu Lu 275 Nong
Xuhui District, Shanghai
January 16 – February 27, 2021
All images copyright and courtesy of the artist(s) and Capsule Shanghai, Shanghai

Capsule Shanghai announces Miranda Fengyuan Zhang’s solo exhibition, A World Without Us. The exhibition consists of recent textile works made of cotton and wool, and a large-scale textile installation. Working formally and freely within the mediums of weaving and knitting, Zhang introspects inner worlds free of human traces.

The subjects are initially disorienting but feel familiar: semi-abstract gardens, vaguely concrete landscapes, animal silhouettes, tranquil rivers and layers of colorful mountains, celebrating the mythology of life and nature.

Vibrating at the borders of abstraction and representation, natural phenomena such as cultivated fields, erupting volcanoes, and icebergs are intimately depicted in the constraint of weaving. While weaving sets rigid striated indexes, knitting offers Zhang freedom in manipulating the material to her demands. The riveting, tactile surface presents a structure for material to clash.

Zhang, reclaiming her trans-generational narrative of watching her grandmother unravel and recycle old sweaters to fabricate new functional garments, uses threads from industrial leftovers originating from remote Chinese factories. Recollecting memories of her grandmother, who endlessly improvised arrangements of abstract shapes and colors, Zhang melds strands of sentimentality, awe, space, and memory in the form of textiles. The evolving language is rooted in her childhood curiosity of identifying recognizable imagery from repurposed garments.

Developed through parental love, Zhang’s use of pareidolia, the perception of imagery in a shapeless figure, transports viewers to lonesome landscapes viewed free of the world’s threats – windows void of noise. There is no semblance of human population, foreshadowing an ominous future vanquished by nature.

The art of textiles occupies a special place in history as a discreet, subtle art form created from common materials as testimonies of the time the object was conceived whether it be in pre-Columbian times, renaissance tapestries, or formalist works by Bauhaus artists, and onwards. In dialogue with the lineage of textiles, Zhang’s weavings juxtapose contemporary experience and modern tradition in revering the simplicity of the materials and endeavored methods that harken back to the beginnings of the history of making.

In breaking and reforming traditions, Zhang’s installation, Around the Dry Valleys, depicts a vast nocturnal landscape of the polar coasts captured during a peculiarly luminescent night. Composed of seven assembled panels, the installation evokes a season of loneliness, of distance exchanges with loved ones as she awaits a better day amidst icebergs gradually melting as if to document the passing of time. The land expands outwards in perpetuity sinking deeper into the cascading blue.

Embracing the material’s tension between familiar references and modernity, Zhang’s textile works evoke the loss of a former state of existence and welcomes the recomposition of a new world. Zhang offers a familiar and reassuring vision of a world without us, of a world where everything has to be started over. Although the work is created in the present, they do not exist in the contemporary but in an introspective space offering hints of sorrowful longing and admiration for a future to be forged.

— Colin Ledoux