Invites: Ding Shilun

Invites: Ding Shilun
Ding Shilun, D77 (Fox) (detail), 2023. Watercolour and ink on paper. Digital photograph. Courtesy the artist
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Zabludowicz Collection is pleased to present an Invites exhibition by Chinese-born, London-based artist Ding Shilun. Influenced by Chinese folklore and contemporary comics, Shilun works across illustration and painting to build mythological narratives depicting the absurdity of everyday life.

The installation extends from a site-specific wall mural by Shilun featuring a series of interconnected disembodied figures with human hearts exposed through their face, palms and chest. This enlarged rendition of his intricately detailed watercolour and ink illustrations serves as a significant backdrop for a salon-style display of the artist’s recent series of thirty works.

Taking inspiration from his own Daily Observation series (developed during the 2020 lockdown), in which he created daily drawings of various events and stories, Shilun traces the journey of a spiky-haired artist navigating a distorted parallel reality. In Shilun’s illustrations, street corners, cafés and public parks are transformed into surreal landscapes featuring encounters with other-worldly and monstrous beings. The artist character weaves through these scenes, often peering into windows or capturing moments on a smartphone.

In Shilun’s diverse array of settings, scenes and scenarios, his character consistently assumes the role of an observer rather than a participant. As the narrative unfolds, tensions mount and supernatural interactions and conflicts revolve around him. From helicopter chases to police interventions, burning books to ice-cream trucks being blown away by the wind, the outcomes depicted in Shilun’s works are characterised by chaos, conflict and a genuine fear of the unknown.

Blending traditional compositional techniques with popularised illustration, fact with fiction, and reality with non-reality, Shilun crafts a world full of storytelling and spectacle. Through illustrating the anxieties around navigating an urban environment, an artistic career, and his familial heritage, Shilun transforms his fears into existence. These self-made premonitions play out as a philosophical quest of the artist’s own free will. Together they culminate in nonsensical realm of imagination and contemporary life in which Shulin relinquishes the emotional burden of an uncertain future.

Ding Shilun (b. 1998, Guangzhou, China) received an MA from the Royal College of Art in 2022 and a BA from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art in 2020. Recent exhibitions include Premonition of Stranding, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China (2023); Art Basel Miami, Galerie Maria Bernheim, USA (2022); Paradiso, Galerie Maria Bernheim, Zürich, Switzerland (2022); Inside Out, The Artist Room, London (2022); Glory, Making Space, Guangzhou, China (2021); ABNORMAL, LPS Gallery, Guangzhou, China (2021); Da Vinci Talk: Wait and Hope, Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, New Zealand (2020); and The Choice Of The Graduate Star 2020, Boxes Art Space, OCAT Shenzhen, China (2020). Ding Shilun is represented by Galerie Maria Bernheim and is working towards an exhibition with K11 in Shanghai, China, in 2024.