Zhu Jia is one of the earliest represented contemporary artists working with video from the 1990s. Although he graduated as a painter from the renowned art institute in Beijing, he was initially intrigued by how photographic and video practice transcends the expression of quotidian activities. Inspired by the Japanese filmmaker Juzo Itami, Zhu empowered the fragments of daily events by amplifying monotonous actions, such as repetitive behaviour of pulling, moving and rotating, and random leisure scenes.
As a prerequisite condition of interpreting the narrative, the landscape is directly perceived as the dynamic carrier of his subjective lens. From the early single-channel video Double Landscape to Zhu’s latest painting First Coffee After Easing Lock Down, the series started after his relocation to London, mundane affairs have been in the centre stage for composing narrative clues. The former frames the sight of the new middle-class pleasurable lifestyle after the economic boom in the 2000s China; the latter shows the adapted social reality of the post-pandemic.
Never Take Off is undoubtedly one of Zhu’s earliest works espousing subversive perspectives. The depicted layered landscape embeds the characteristics of time, a passage of reversible, dreamlike, suspended state. The thread of time is continued through specific life scene setting, composition structure and theme. Specific items delineated in the latest “Old House Series”, such as wardrobe, chimney, hanging bell and other furniture, become the portal of time for the artist to bridge the blurry memory and imaginative reality.
The portrayed protagonists integrate into the foundational elements of the landscape to stimulate the viewer’s supplementary narration. Compared with the early works that reflect the collective consciousness of social group portraits, artist's self-portraits emerged or faded from the ongoing painted events in recent works, detached from the backdrop, and embarked on a new form of storytelling to swiftly unfold the confrontation between the viewer and the viewed. Mirror and reflection as a metaphor of self-portrait appeared in photographs In Front of The Mirror, and video Zero revealed that the otherness is a mirror of self-awareness.