Zhao Pengyuan

Daily Portrait, 2021

17:06:2021, Florence, 2021

digital collage, 125 x 95cm

The artist, drawing inspiration from the works of Richard Prince and Martin Parr, makes a photographic work about the epidemic we are experiencing. Recording the state of Florence and people in this last period, while superimposing the news of the day corresponding to the day of the photo, the artist tried to build this period of time through the two perspectives. Each individual has been shaped by the epidemic, changing their quality of life, but in the same way, it itself is shaped by the individual’s critical gaze. Positive or negative, it will become a lasting memory.


In our view, talking about perennial topicality means talking about our perception of time, history, and human interactions. As we considered this project a collective debate, we’d like to hear more about your ideas as well. What is your perception of perennial topicality? And which element of this idea do you think that the artwork that you presented wants to portray?

I think the perennial topicality is the product of our fusion with this time and space. It contains the limitations of human beings, but it is also eternal and romantic. I like this topic. Time and space are grand and infinite, but the human interactions that contain the randomicity of every tiny individual give time and space the history. This is our unique color, short and eternal. In my works, randomness is my pursuit. The disconnection or linkage between individual behavior and facts presents a chaotic tension. I want to express the contingency and necessity in human interactions, the relationship between individuals and history that shape each other.

We are all the sum of our experiences, which shape our personality and perception. How did your personal history affect the creation of your artworks and in what way did you bring it into your project? 

I was born in the countryside of China in the 1990s. This is an era of national reforms and great changes. Everything is collapsing and rebuilding, making it impossible to tell the direction. I have witnessed and experienced with my parents the dilemmas and opportunities that an era brought to individuals. Therefore, I always keep a sensitive nerve to the times and destiny, which is also a special focus of my art creation. I am also a foreigner, a Chinese who has travelled and studied in Europe. Different perspectives and cultural shocks have shaped me and made me pay more attention to the themes of identity and culture. I usually bring in my works in terms of themes and perspectives. In particular, I pay attention to what kind of identity the audience is in my work, and what kind of observation I bring to them.

Due to the centrality of technology as well as the redefinition of our personal space, in these pandemic times the intimacy and the lack of it are now not only lived but conceived differently. How would you describe your perception of intimacy, relationships, and connection today?

I think pandemic times and connection are shaping each other, we are not passively accepting, and even in order to reach the connection, we try to create some new way, which is exactly what my work shows. In the same way, the concept of intimacy has been de-physicalized.  It now has a sense of fragmentation, which is also a trend in the Internet social era. I don’t think this sense of fragmentation is bad. Instead, it makes us think about real intimacy, relationships, and connection.

What do you expect from the audience’s experience after viewing your work in this digital environment? How do you think that our endless consumption of digital contents is affecting the production and the fruition of artworks? Do you think the virtual exhibition experience will continue to be a possible tool for presenting your research?

I hope that this special digital environment can bring different thinking to the audience, especially since my work itself is carried by numbers. I think our endless consumption of digital content will force artistic transformation and innovation, just like the influence of photography and film technology on art, virtual exhibition and digital content will become a form of future art, which I am happy to explore. I am also honored to have the opportunity to try this time.


Zhao Pengyuan (born 1995, Shanxi, China) is currently studying the Accademia di Belle Arti of Firenze, uses photography, video, installation and performance as the main creative forms, paying attention to cultural differences and changes in the times. As an artist in study, He participated in the OPEN DAY of the Accademia di Belle Arti of Florence in 2018 and 2019, and the academic exchange activities of Renmin University of China in 2019.