June 27, 2009
by Canadian Architect
The Vancouver Art Gallery will launch its new outdoor exhibition space, Offsite, with a site-specific installation by Chinese artist O Zhang from July 20 to November 29, 2009. Offering a rotating program of innovative public art projects by local and international contemporary artists, the new exhibition space in the downtown core allows artists to explore and respond to Vancouver’s unique urban environment. Located at the foot of the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver near the intersection of Georgia and Thurlow streets, Offsite will present new projects organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery every six months, funded by the City of Vancouver through its Public Art Program.
“Offsite allows the Vancouver Art Gallery to expand its dynamic contemporary art program beyond the walls of the building to engage an even broader audience in new and exciting ways,” said Kathleen Bartels, director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. “In this new dynamic space, we will present a wide range of inspiring and provocative work, from photography and sculpture to video and installation, allowing thousands of passersby to encounter the creations of internationally acclaimed artists on a daily basis.”
The first artwork to be presented at Offsite will be O Zhang’s major photographic installation Horizon (Sky). For this project, the artist returned to the rural area of her youth in central China to photograph the young village girls who live there. Posing in front of a camera for the first time, the children stare into the lens, returning the gaze of the viewer – unabashed, bold and powerful – while the vibrant colour of the blue sky behind them evokes thoughts of hope and possibility. Enlarged to monumental proportions, the images of the young girls, each photographed on a country hillside, are presented with a strength and individuality not commonly represented in popular media. Zhang’s images suggest a positive vision of the future of China and the role that women might play in its transformation, a role that is simultaneously embraced by the artist herself.
Born in Guangzhou, China, O Zhang spent her early childhood in the small village of Jishou in Hunan, where her parents had been relocated during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. After more than six years in Jishou, Zhang returned to Guangzhou to study art at the Guangzhou Children’s Palace and Academy of Art Middle School. At 19, Zhang moved to Beijing to attend the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Although she trained as a painter, Beijing was where she first discovered photography, a medium not taught at the Academy. After the completion of her degree in 2000, Zhang moved to London where she earned two Master’s degrees in fine arts and photography from the Royal College of Art.
In 2004, Zhang relocated to New York to pursue her art practice full-time. Zhang is the recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Artist Fellowship and Wilson Center for Photography Fellowship. She is also the winner of the RCA Photography Graduate Award, Fuji Film Student Award and has been nominated and short-listed for numerous awards, including the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards, Beck’s Future Award, Creative Capital Awards and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Awards.