At the origin of the project is a delirious French text on pastry gastronomy and dessert nomenclature (unfortunately untrans¬latable in any other language), which allows the author to get even with literary forms and with the authoritative Power of the academic Intelligentsia of the Verb.
For us French people, this text is a jubilant purple passage, and becomes all the more savory intertwined into Zhou Tiehai’s project. The artist illustrates the text, in complicity with its author, with more than 250 very small oil paintings on canvas that are based on found Internet images. Through use of the immense visual data bank, his work proposes the delights of greed...until the progressive slip of pleasure veers towards the excess of lust...from the very beginning of the History of Art and of the Image until our days.
Zhou’s has always worked on the concept of the image. It is his field of predilection. He shows the image in its context to identify it as such, and often through humor and tenderness he denounces its academicism by making a second reading. He modifies the image, perverts it, and veers it from its original meaning, and then at the end he substitutes it for another (see, for example, the introduction of the figure of Prince Camel into western classical painting, the modification of Chinese traditional painting by the use of the aerographer, or the invention of icons for Chinese cinema stars). In this way, the artist’s work recalls that of the French Situationists: fighting the image by its diversion.
But in DESSERTS, Zhou becomes a predator /devourer more than a fighter of images. Here he presents a banquet, where historical, artistic, political, popular and even anonymous im¬ages are made iconic, with an over-estimating and standardizing gesture. Zhou Tiehai is an iconolatric/iconoclast.
And also to note: that the French text is indeed delirious and untranslatable一it does not have meaning nor does it exist any¬more beyond its original written form, and the quoted images no longer refer to it. The images become floating islands* on the ocean of thought.
*In French, “floating island” is “ile flottante”一also a dessert!