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Writing (MA)

He Zhang | 张禾

Writer, artist, researcher and dreamer.

I dream up something out of thin air.

Before RCA, I studied art history at Renmin University of China.

Degree Details

School of Arts & HumanitiesWriting (MA)RCA2023 at Battersea and Kensington

RCA Battersea, Studio Building, First floor


What is the signature? When we gaze at it, those smooth or awkward lines, they dance across various objects with a unique rhythm, as if composing a comprehensive portrait of the signer in the minds of viewers. This portrait encompasses not only the signer's physiological state but also their innermost emotions. It is akin to the growth rings etched within a tree's core, revealing the age and climate conditions in which the tree grew. What I want to discuss is much more than just biological information of signatures, however; the act of signing is more like an abstract process of authorization, in which the signature is a visual symbol of identity inherently linking to authority. So what makes the signing so special and charming? Can anyone freely apply their personal mark at will? Are there specific requirements or protocols governing the act of signing? And historically, has there been a particular moment or type of person for whom signing holds utmost significance?

Given that we have long been familiar with the signature, are such questions about signature worth raising? And if so, can they be treated or answered concretely, intelligibly, informatively? I think it is a huge topic, but the task in my final piece is to avoid compiling a catalogue and to take up instead the question of beginnings in an interesting, fairly detailed, practical, and theoretical way. Among the large number of examples of signatures, I shall focus more on one group — artists.

Author makes it possible to distinguish a signature on an artwork from that on the ordinary object. Yet, in our unwavering allegiance to the autograph, we unwittingly pave the way for those harboring other intentions to exploit it, so we have to choose imperative the employment of alternative methods in the pursuit of authenticity. Signatures are undergoing transformation. At times, I experience an inexplicable sensation where the ethereal forms of the signers within the paintings seem to gradually dissipate. The mystery surrounding their departure envelops my thought on the function of signature. It leaves me pondering the enigmatic reasons behind their vanishing. The myriad of possibilities enthralls, as I traverse the corridors of conjecture, my mind drenched in an alluring amalgamation of wonder and perplexity.

signature 1


Stones, Maps and Collective Memory (1/18)
Stones, Maps and Collective Memory (2/18)
Stones, Maps and Collective Memory (3/18)
Stones, Maps and Collective Memory (4/18)

When we talk about William Kentridge's work and this exhibition, we have to face the unpleasant memories. Most of us are neither the ones who experienced history nor the ones who were directly affected by it, so strong personal emotions or indifference prevent us from finding the right place to land. Instead, to touch it or to discuss it in the larger historical context is the more appropriate strategy that William Kentridge can currently find as an artist to deal with shared memory, but he is still equally doubted his 'white guilt and middle-class sentimentality'. In my opinion, he is more like the swallow in Wilde's fairy tale than the sparrow. He has enough courage to express his views on shared memory, like the swallow who would rather sacrifice itself to fulfill the Happy Prince's wish to help the poor, despite the rather high risks involved.


Art review essay


18 pages
Extending Family
Extending Family




4 pages

A Burning Paper in My Memory

Today I intend to burn a paper

in a mysterious ruin,

like Borges’ the Circular Ruins.

There is a fire waiting for me for a long time

It prepares to swallow everything,

including my ugly handwriting and ridiculous imagination.

The burning sound likes an annoying mockery.

In an era when handwriting was almost replaced by typewriting

No one cares what you do.

Rolling it into a ball and shooting it

like a basketball player,

or tearing it into different sized pieces.

Burning it!

A slight feeling of suspicion crept over me.

This is a piece with my impractical thought

And I even could not remember the last time I noticed it.

Honestly, I want to ignore it,

but my signature is on the cover.

My mother used to warn me that never

never burn those items you consider not perfect,

as your father did before he died.

Just for a good reputation.

While a damn shame force me closer to that fire

wiping this memory from out of thin air.

Give me the match box!

The flames blur my vision

Recalling that afternoon with my father burning his drafts.

I would like to call it as a magical ceremony of calligraphy.

The burning ashes were piled in a corner of the wall,

with black smog and pungent smell,

in which I could still see faint traces of ink.

He did not explain too much about his decision,

witnessing the blaze dance with his calm.

A few years later,

the flames reduced his diseased body to ashes as well,

becoming a nightmare and mom’s slight weeping

that tormented me for countless nights.

Fire was his best answer.

Compared with a torture for creators-

Discarding them at will,

Then staining with mundane traces.

It is a principles-based deal with the heavens:

The words appearing on the page with inspiration

Returning it to its rightful owner,

when it is no longer valuable

The fire is the essential agent of this ritual.

Father, paper and fire.

Standing in Circular Ruins,

My father did not tell me the secret of this ritual.

As Borges’ novel,

Nor did the wizard tell his teenager the secret of fire and shadows,

simply because of his limitation of his awareness,

under the wheel of fate.

I can feel a sense of comfort

never before experienced as the paper burns.


I am completing this unfinished ritual from my memory.