Zhao Qian: A Field Guide

Curator: Duan Yuting

Once, we defined a path as we traced it. We do not really need guidance when exploring the environment but being led is always a comfort. Field guide books respond to that demand for orientation. The author writes down his own experience and lays it down for the reader’s purpose. His subjective knowledge becomes a truth for other people to use. This practical data is categorized, named and listed to form a system. Field guides entertain the readers in the illusion that they can understand everything, fathom their environment by appropriating someone else’s knowledge. Shared with like-minded people the private experience compiled in field guides are given authority. This dynamic is an empowerment of personal perception, converting it to a knowledge system that in turn redefines the world around us.


The exhibition “A Field Guide” does not seek to be an authoritative manual, it refuses to give the audience directions, names and definitions for what surrounds them. The artist’s own relation to his environment is at the heart of the exhibition : frequently flying between San Francisco and Shanghai, Zhao Qian experienced cultural displacement, traveling back and forth, from one spotless airport to the other, saturated with global signs and language. Immersed in the contemporary visual landscape, the artist is an explorer wandering among its unadorned objects, ridded of useless frills and details and neatly flattened as to fit the ubiquitous screen. No need for a manual here, for individuals to show the way, the environment has a built-in guide. It follows an unshakable logic and the only option seems to be obedience.


Zhao Qian intends to reverse the mechanism, looking for visual stimuli everywhere, he pulls images out of their contexts, displaces them. Stripped of meaning, they are not anyone’s to understand anymore. Personal perception can no longer be established as authority but becomes an act of resistance. Zhao Qian renders the images non pragmatic, subverts their scale, function, attributes, juxtaposes them in a confusion of his own devise. He compiles an imaginary field guide with infinite paths to be roamed. He invites us to wander the vast land’s winding roads, taking in their details, relying on our senses to browse our mind, try and identify but not rush to name what we encounter.


All Images 

© Zhao Qian

Courtesy of the artist


版权所有 © 赵谦


About the Artist

Zhao Qian (b.1990, Jiangxi province) is a visual artist living in San Francisco and China. He focuses on human activities and the environment around him. Qian then translates this information to the flat image, distorting the original meaning in the process. His project has exhibited in 001 Gallery (Rome, Italy), Reminders Photography Stronghold Gallery (Tokyo, Japan) and Lianzhou Foto Festival(Lianzhou, China). His work has appeared in group exhibitions in Rathfarnham Castle (Dublin, Ireland), French Pavilion (Zagreb, Croatia), Ogden Museum of Southern Art (New Orleans, USA), Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome (Rome, Italy), Zhejiang Art Museum(Hangzhou,China), Today Art Museum (Beijing, China),  Dalian Art Museum (Dalian, China) and Kala Art Institute (Berkeley, USA). Zhao Qian has also shown in Unseen Photo Fair, Singapore International Photo Festival, Athens Photo Festival, Copenhagen Photo Festival and FOTOFESTIWAL. Zhao Qian has received fellowships for residencies such as HANGAR/Artist Research Center (2018), Homesession(2018), The Cow House Studio, Vermont Studio Center and Kala Art Institute. In 2017 his first monograph "Offcut, the edge" got published by Jiazazhi Press.