Zhu Xiaodi has long been known as an architect, but he has also devoted himself, with equal dedication, to experiencing and exploring the study of ink-painting. In several of his series of works, he transforms the point, line and surface of architectural design into new forms of ink painting, which I refer to as “constructed ink painting”. Now, Zhu Xiaodi is moving into a new realm, combining his experience in both architecture and ink painting to create a symphony composed of the languages of ink and architecture, within the same space. Through this harmony, a unique and innovative exhibition emerges—Unlimited. In Unlimited, ink wash painting and design superimpose upon each other, where the building merges into the picture through the alternations of light and shade, where lines form images in the space—all reflections of Zhu Xiaodi’s feeling and spirit.
In these works, Zhu Xiaodi tries to capture the essence of his materials, each effort creating a non-reproducible moment, repeated differently each time and transmitted through the unplanned action of the marking process, into a repeated sequence of paintings. Traces of the medium are gradually revealed—the marks within the paper itself, its passage from creation through folding, the resilience and coarseness of its texture, to the changes created by the repeated friction between brush and paper. The action of the brush is not controlled by deliberate predetermination but through a continuous conversation composed of intuition and sensibility. In this way, Zhu Xiaodi breaks away from the original formalism of line and paper to achieve a new territory enriched with greater dimension and line-layer effects within the smallest possible plane.
Traditional Chinese ink painting emphasizes techniques that include the buildup of the ink, splashing, breaking, stroking, wiping, stippling and dyeing, all of which are central to express the image. However, Zhu Xiaodi abandons this set of methods. He blurs his brush as much as possible, highlighting the ink as the central language, restoring the pure plane of expression. Looking at the paintings from a distance, you will feel that they are made in a new way -- an impression without brush marks so that the space, complexity and depth are not only different from traditional painting, but also beyond the qualities of architecture.
Trace and mark equate to shape and image. In Zhu Xiaodi’s work, the “image” is not just a simple picture, but a trace, sign and appearance presented through the process of subjective and objective experience, breaking away from the visible boundary of the tangible. Traces of Zhu Xiaodi’s work, seen from different angles, present different effects: the distance and depth of a thousand miles of mountains, the quiet serenity of cloud forest or the tranquil state of watching the drift of a cloud along the water. Order and flavor are expressed directly and vividly: lines and images emerge organically as the brush passes.
Seen from an angle at different planes of the space, the viewer becomes immersed into the frame of two-dimensional ink and brush, while hints of the physical structure reappear, slowly refocusing our sense of space – these multiple and overlapping perspectives created through the conversation between the characteristics of artist-architect, which enable Zhu Xiaodi to find greater variation and freer creative expression. He divides the space with ink lines to form a layered superimposition, and abstracts the space into tonal modalities of a cube by virtue of the trajectory of the light. It is a type of pure and simple visual expression within the vocabulary of Chinese culture, yet with a new, contemporary feeling.
Zhu Xiaodi’s work, whether on paper or in space, reflects a unity of hands, mind, heart and medium: the fusion of body and emotion, the interweaving of sense and sensibility that stems from a concentrated attention and stillness -- the layered superimposition of brush-trace and thought, the realization of mindfulness and spiritual freedom found within the painting and woven ink lines. It can be said that this is his pathway to care for the world. Rigorous visual structures are expanded through the overlapping of heart, hand and brush, reaching a new freedom that exists beyond reason, revealing the ideals of the emotion behind it.
Zhu Xiaodi realizes a new form of work in this self-constructed way, forming a new category of practice through images in space. In the end, he leads viewers and himself to a land of pure soul, transforming and transcending the limits of spatial and visual experience.
Translator：Yan Liu \ Hana Iverson