In the Bowels of the Bardo
Triptych, 2019: Reason Traill (left) | Sight, Taste, Appetite (middle) | Searching the Loop (right)
In the Bowels of the Bardo, titled after Ye Qin Zhu’s 2018 painting, considers the bardo (the state between death and rebirth) as a bridge between the spiritual and material. Emerging from an ethereal place, his paintings take shape, become saturated with objects, and don the motifs of the bardo. The bardo is a stretch of waiting, a longing for definition. The stillness this may bring is pierced by the despair of loss and void, inviting attachments to fill. The fracture of coming into being is marked by its eventual unbecoming. The behaviors of the bardo’s loop pervade throughout the paintings in this exhibition.
Zhu’s painting, In the Bowels of the Bardo, is built up of detritus, keepsakes, electronic parts, and bio matter. Often the objects appear lived, carrying with them past stories. Among the sediment is a lump of wax resting on a protruding rock. Embalmed within the translucent wax are several longhorn beetles, a housefly, rubber band, and the peel of a citrus fruit. In the manner of the fragmentary congealing into a whole, figures and objects amass to depict bardo scenes. Each scene is in an amorphous-shaped panel, when pieced together, they constitute the “bowels” of an interconnected bardo realm. In some Buddhist paintings, the karmic wheel enclosing the bardo is clasped between the jaws of a cosmic deity. This encompassing picture suggests that to live is to consume—and the dead travel through the bowels, where digestion and transformation occurs.