This month, we focus on works by Singaporean artist Robert Zhao Renhui who works in the medium of photography to capture his observations and research into nature.
Zhao has been passionate about nature since he was young, photographing animals at the zoo and developing his documentary style. He went on to do his bachelor’s degree at the Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts, London, which helped him expand his artistic practice to construct layers within his photographic narratives to allow for the viewer to question what they see by oscillating between reality and fiction.
Over the years, Zhao has created various bodies of work, one of which is Mynas, whereby he spent a month in a tree along Singapore’s major shopping district, Orchard Road.
Initially released as a 100-page photobook, Mynas continues Zhao’s inquiry into perceived human objectivity. Zhao deliberately plays with exposures, interspersing blank expanses of black with very lowly exposed images – almost completely pitch black – of the Common Myna. The viewer is thus forced to question if what they see is truly just a black piece of paper, or if there is something more to be scrutinized and thus revealing the limitations of our own abilities to perceive.
Another one of Zhao’s works that reflects his multidisciplinary approach of combining digitally altered images in a documentary style is A Guide To The Flora And Fauna Of The World, which was shown at the 2013 Singapore Biennale. He photographed 55 animals and plants that appeared natural, but are actually man made and so are never included in natural history encyclopedias, but presented in an almost documentary style which forces us to question the way we as humans always endeavor to control nature with our own perceptions of style.
Using his simple observations of nature, together with his documentary style of photography, Zhao continually encourages us to question our own human condition and question assumptions within our own daily lives.
See more of Robert Zhao Renhui's works here.
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