Zhao Yao was born in 1981 in Luzhou, (Sichuan Province). He graduated with a BA from the Design Arts Department of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2004. He currently lives and works in Beijing. 

He has become an increasingly important figure in the emerging generation of contemporary Chinese art world. Zhao Yao’s works involve a broad range of media including installation, performance, video, painting and sculpture. Through solo exhibitions, he has approached the vested exhibition system utilizing a logic of interference and subversion to break down the framework of the contemporary art structure. A Painting of Thought has been an ongoing series since 2015. He wrote that two books provided the source images for his paintings say the following on their covers:

  1. A magical book full of challenging wisdom, geniuses around the world are playing 1000 Thinking Games. Why are Japanese people so smart? An American had a sudden realization that thinking is built through play. (A must read for the never-surrendering Chinese. Nanhai Press, 2005.)
  2. Top international thinking games to rapidly unlock your mind’s potential. The 600 thinking games played by all the top students in the world will help you grasp effective methods for enhancing cognitive abilities, heightening powers of observation, analysis, logic, deduction, judgment, imagination, creativity, memory, thinking and action. The more you play, the smarter and more successful you will become. (600 Thinking Games from a century of Harvard students. Huawen Press, 2009.)

This series approaches fundamental questions of art from the perspective of painting, particularly abstract painting. He asks: How do we look at a painting? How do we understand a painting? How do we create a painting?  For the artist, everything here is readymade: readymade images, readymade colors, readymade fabric, and a readymade understanding of painting, produced by readymade images, forms and materials. This includes the understanding and ways of thinking about painting produced by existing art history education and artistic experience…”

Zhao Yao’s work has been exhibited at Tate Modern (2010); Pinchuk Art Center, (Kiev) 2013), ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (2013); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing, (2013); Focus Beijing: the De Heus-Zomer Collection at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Netherlands (2014), Inside China at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, (2014), and Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015 at Whitechapel Gallery, London, (2015).

Beijing CommuneConstellation Catalog