Curated by Holly Roussell
Shanghai artist Coca Dai’s series Judy Zhu 2008-2015, began at first as daily snapshots of his girlfriend and developed into a significant intimate narrative on contemporary womanhood. Photographing between 2008 and 2015 entirely using film cameras, the black and white and color images all share an unadulterated directness. Each image invites us to raise questions about the two human beings confronting each other separated by a camera. This ongoing body of work gives us insight into the relationship of the artist and Judy Zhu as they discover one another, experience pregnancy, convert to Catholicism and grow from young lovers into adulthood as parents in contemporary China.
The series is comprised of almost exclusively portraits of Judy Zhu - an accumulation of intimacy, anger, happiness and boredom that come before us, one after another, as they were lived. In this work, we glimpse what may be considered less "photographic" moments, such as Judy eating dinner, riding the elevator, sleeping or returning from a night out. In each instance, the artist is a participant and an observer. His multitudinous images enter into the tradition of uncompromisingly honest artists such as Nan Goldin or Wolfgang Tillmans, whose works may sometimes be cruel in their authenticity but are full of veracity and passion. These photographs employ a close focus– zooming on the subject as longing eyes may when observing the object of love. The artist is able to convey in this work both the story of Judy Zhu, and more generally the trials, ecstasies, and touches of melancholy of women both in contemporary Chinese society, influenced by tradition, family, social interactions, sexuality and motherhood.