Ancient Spirituality: Zhang Huan at Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Chinese contemporary artist, Zhang Huan, has delivered an inspiring installation, within the spectacularly decorated Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

Inextricably linked with Buddhism, Zhang Huan explores ideas of culture, society and religious practices in his exhibition entitled, L’Anima e la Materia (Soul and Matter). The exhibition covers two locations on either side of the city of Florence: the Palazzo Vecchio and the Forte di Belvedere. The stunning rooms of the Palazzo Vecchio, afford the sculptural pieces a certain amount of stillness, reinforcing the contemplative nature of Huan’s work. In the main hall, a sculpture of Confucius in white marble, welcomes visitors and sets the tone of peace and harmony. On the trail of discovery, Huan’s sculptures reappear on the first floor, with a row of four busts, that confront the viewer. Created in incense ash, the textural works represent elements of Chinese society, from themes of military duty, to social rebellion.

Venturing into the next room, visitors bear witness to huge sculptures of Buddha and Jesus Christ, facing one another in an apparent dialogue. Again created from ash collected from temples in China, the sculptures carry the prayers and wishes made in spiritual practices. The final room shows another Buddha, sitting in the center of the room in silent contemplation. The works aim to bridge gaps between East and West, juxtaposing ancient Chinese philosophies with the political and cultural history of Italy.

For more on the use of spirituality in contemporary society, review our latest Futurist report: From Internet to Inner-net

Zhang Huan: L’Anima e la Materia (Soul and Matter) continues at Palazzo Vecchio and Forte di Belevedere until October 13. – Louise Stuart Trainor



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