Zhang Ruyi

Harmonies of concrete and organic matter.

Zhang Ruyi was born in 1985 in Shanghai, China, where she continues to live and work.


Ruyi received the Creative M50 Young Artist Award in 2012, the YISHU 8 Creative Young Artist Award five years later, and was nominated for the Frieze London Artist Award in 2018.

Did you know?

A recurring cactus motif in the artist's work acts as a symbolic self-portrait for her experiences of struggling as an early career, female artist – and the prickly exterior they foster.

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Collaborations with Zhang Ruyi

Avant Arte and Zhang Ruyi have one upcoming collaboration.

Practice overview

Zhang questions everything. Her intuitive mixed-media practice juxtaposes materials to reframe ideas of everyday life. Exploring the relationship between personal identity and the urban landscape, her central motif – cacti – functions as an unlikely self-portrait. Meditating on the effects of rapid urbanisation, Zhang creates subversive, and quietly surreal interior displays in concrete. By hand-casting cement with a mould, Zhang enshrines the quintessential construction material in plant form. She also uses ceramic grid tiles, an architectural pattern that frequently features in Chinese urban neighbourhoods, and originally inspired by the patterning of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian – it’s repetition tranquil and harmonising.

The minimalist sensibility of the works initially began through a drawing practice which moved into experiments with sculpture and installation. This transition across 2-D and 3-D forms evolved from suspending shapes in negative space on draft paper in works like Sharp 4 (2016), and transforming residential spaces into dynamic monochromatic installation in shows like Building Opposite Building (2016). Zhang favours connections over disconnections. Individual Plant–22 (2019) shows a concrete cacti glazed in gold and placed above two cubes of ceramic tile. The cement binding the tiles matches the glaze of the cacti, giving the sense that one grows from the other. Contesting the notion that organic and industrial matter are opposites, Zhang reveals that, in fact, they are more affiliated than we may have initially conceived.

“We will all be disciplined by the world, yet we can choose the way we are going to be disciplined.” Zhang Ruyi