Spotlight: See How Chinese Artist Joy Zhuo Cheng Explores Zen Philosophy in Her New Beijing Exhibition

Her solo exhibition "Bond/Unbound" is on view at the Today Art Museum in Beijing.

Joy Cheng, Alice and I 06 NFT (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

Every month, hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Artnet Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on one artist you should know. 

About the Artist: An adjunct professor of art at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Joy Cheng first rose to prominence as one of the country’s first 3D animators, beginning her practice in 1991. She was one of the lead creators of the opening animations for the CCTV spring festival gala in 1992 and 1993 and, even in the early years of her career, she sought the fusion of art and daily life through fashion, jewelry, interior, and landscaping design, as well as tea ceremonies and flower arranging. In 2014, Cheng began to devote herself to art making as a full-time endeavor working in oil painting, mixed media, fresco, installation, video, and even NFTs.

Now, four of the artist’s most recent series of works are on view at the Today Art Museum in Beijing, as part of the show “Bound/ Unbound.” With works created since 2019, the series on view include “God of Ants,” “Breaking,” “Light,” and “One.” Each series is, in a different way, an experiment guided by impulse and an exploration of the nature of thought. 

Why We Like It: Cheng described creating each of the four series as roots growing from a tree, one leading into the next. Though the works range from traditional materials in “God of Ants” to digitally rendered NFTS, each asks fundamental philosophical questions about the nature of thought, existence, consciousness, and materiality. The earliest body of work, “God of Ants,” explores the complex tunnels made by ants as a metaphor for consciousness. In “Breaking,” Cheng creates relief effects through raised powder lines, burnt holes, and embroidery that form complex, interwoven layers. In the series “Light,” hard-edged graphics blend with multiple layers of writing. And in the most recent series, “One,” Cheng explores an idea of a common consciousness shared by humans, artificial intelligence, and the larger universe. Cheng’s work is deeply influenced by Zen philosophy and her works serve as spaces where the bounded material world and an unbounded dimension of wisdom meet. 

According to the Artist: My work is a combination of careful thought and intuitive spontaneity. Stroke after stroke, stitch after stitch, I layer action with time to achieve a Zen state of Anatta. I enjoy the touch of the brush, dipping it in paint, the energy of different colors and materials. I have used incense ash from my own daily practice, casein, mineral pigments, bamboo charcoal powder, and other natural mediums. I have also used traditional techniques such as Italian fresco painting, Eastern ink painting, woven bamboo, and embroidery, collage, burns, and mending to establish the flow of rhythm and energy in the paintings. An awareness of intentionality compels me to abstract the objects I portray, then I use minimal lines and my own form of mixed media to create irregular geometric spaces within these works.”


Joy Cheng
God of Ants 04 (2020)

Cheng Zhuo, God of Ants 04 (2020). Courtesy of the artist.

Joy Cheng, God of Ants 04 (2020). Courtesy of the artist.


Joy Cheng
Breaking 04 (2020)

Cheng Zhuo, Breaking 04 (2020). Courtesy of the artist.

Joy Cheng, Breaking 04 (2020). Courtesy of the artist.


Joy Cheng
Alice and I 01, NFT (2021)

Joy Cheng, Alice and I 01, NFT (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

Joy Cheng, Alice and I 01, NFT (2021). Courtesy of the artist.


“Bond/Unbound” is currently on view at the Today Art Museum in Beijing through July 4, 2021. 

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