“As artists and as individuals, we select materials as message-carriers to reconnect with the spiritual world outside of our everyday life. I feel comfortable to work with the medium that suits my ideas and works. For example, I like incense ash. To me, ash is not simply a medium for painting. It is the collective memory, collective soul and collective blessings of the people in China.”
One of China's best-known performance and Conceptual artists, Zhang Huan's more recent work has consisted of sculptures and paintings that reference the history of his native China, from significant political, intellectual, and religious figures to anonymous portraits and landscape scenes. For his two- and three-dimensional works, Zhang frequently uses both common objects and unusual organic materials, including feathers, cowhides, and for his 2005 sculpture Donkey, a taxidermied donkey. Particularly evocative is Zhang’s use of incense ash, a material that epitomizes both detritus and religious ritual, with which he paints and sculpts works that are as olfactory as they are visual.