Hang Zhang wins the British Institution Fund Award at this year’s Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition
Each year, the Royal Academy of Arts presents a number of prizes for outstanding works within their annual Summer Exhibition.
Postgraduate Researcher Hang Zhang has won the British Institution Fund Award for her neon sculpture Cat Tattooing Cat which is on display at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition in London until 20 August.
Held every year since 1769, the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) Summer Exhibition is the world’s oldest open submission exhibition. The range of works in the show are selected and hung by Royal Academicians (who also exhibit their works), creating an eclectic mix of work by established artists alongside emerging talent and first-time exhibitors.
This year’s exhibition has been coordinated by British artist David Remfry MBE RA. Featured works in the show include sculptures by the late Phyllida Barlow RA, pieces by Tracey Emin RA, a painting by comedian Joe Lycett and a dramatic mobile installation by Irish fashion designer Richard Malone.
Looking from Central Hall to the Lecture Room at the RA Summer Exhibition. Hang Zhang’s sculpture Sam, the Red Flour Beetle (2022) can be seen towards the ceiling in the far corner of the Lecture Room. Richard Malone‘s poem in the dark about sadness / filíocht faoi bhrón, as an dorchadas is in the foreground. Photo courtesy Hang Zhang.
Hang Zhang is an artist and practice-based Postgraduate Researcher based in Leeds. Two very different pieces of her work have been selected for the RA Summer Exhibition 2023 and are both on display in the Lecture Room at the RA’s Burlington House.
The first of these is her prize-winning wall-mounted neon sculpture, Cat Tattooing Cat (2022). Also on display is Sam, the Red Flour Beetle (2022) — a large inflatable sculpture suspended from the ceiling in a corner of the room which has been cited by Time Out as one of the Ten things we loved at this year’s Summer Exhibition.
Zhang’s work challenges the boundaries of art to explore the potential of various disciplines, including nonhuman and wordless writing language, extra-terrestrial life, posthumanism and mortality.
Having graduated with a first class honours BA Fine Art degree in 2021, Hang Zhang continued her studies in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies and finished her MA Fine Art in September 2022. Her current practice-led PhD research at the University of Leeds investigates the cultural images of South American lamoid species in globalisation under the epochal impacts of post-colonisation and the Internet.
Still from Hang Zhang's Untitled by Inti, 2023, 5-minute video work. Image courtesy of the artist.
The British Institution Fund was established to promote excellence in the arts through the awarding of prizes to students — work is assessed across a comprehensive range of creative disciplines including painting, sculpture and architecture.
Hang Zhang was announced as the winner of this year’s prestigious British Institution Fund Award for her wall-based neon sculpture Cat Tattooing Cat. She was presented with a £5,000 prize by Michael Claridge, Chair of the British Institution Fund, at an award ceremony at the Royal Academy in London in July.
Hang Zhang and David Remfrey MBE RA at the RA Summer Exhibition 2023. Artworks in background include Hang's neon sculpture, Cat Tatooing Cat. Photograph by Amy Xu.
Hang Zhang said:
“Both works were created whilst I was undertaking my MA in Fine Art at the University of Leeds. The inflatable beetle is part of my Sam, the Red Flour Beetle project, which documents life with my companion species — a non-binary lab beetle named Sam — during covid lockdowns.
“I created this giant inflatable beetle to visually elevate significance beyond their role as a lab beetle, prompting a reconsideration of the hierarchical relationship between humans and nonhumans.
“The creative writing book Sam, the Red Flour Beetle is currently exhibited in the cabinet on the corridor leading to the basement in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. The book and wider project were supervised by Professor Chris Taylor.
Hang Zhang's Sam, the Red Flour Beetle (2022) in the corner of the Lecture Room at the RA Summer Exhibition 2023. Photo courtesy the artist.
“Cat Tattooing Cat was a component of the performative installation project Hangover Square (2022), featured in our MA Fine Art degree show (hidden) in September 2022. Hangover Square is a personal project through which I decolonised my body from patriarchy by adorning it with tattoos.
“The Cat Tattooing Cat neon piece corresponds to a tattoo on my right calf. During a tutorial with Dr Julia McKinlay while preparing for Hangover Square, I shared the story behind my tattoos. Upon hearing this, Julia suggested adding neons that referenced my actual tattoos into the installation, particularly emphasising the importance of the Cat Tattooing Cat tattoo to me.
“Since then, this neon piece has become my signature work, cherished by many and exhibited widely. I was delighted to receive £5,000 for winning the British Institution Fund Award in recognition of my work.”
Hang Zhang, Hangover Square (2022) at NAE Open 2023, New Art Exchange, Nottingham. Immersive neon sculptures, size various. The selected works are Nowhere (40 x 120cm), Cat Tattooing Cat (100 x 80cm) and Hangover Square (40 x 110cm). Photo by Tom Morley.
Dr Cesar Cornejo, Associate Professor in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies and one of Hang’s PhD supervisors, said:
“Congratulations to Hang on receiving this prestigious award in one of the most competitive exhibitions in the UK.
“This is a recognition to Hang's original art practice, which approaches universal subjects through a personal lens, making them accessible to people across cultures, transcending borders and creating opportunities for dialogue and reflection.
“This award is surely one of many more to come.”
Hang Zhang, Hangover Square (2022), MA Fine Art Degree Show, September 2022. Photo by Andy Lord.
The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition opened on 13 June and runs to 20 August.
Explore the works on display via the online Summer Exhibition Explorer catalogue, including Hang Zhang’s Cat Tattooing Cat and Sam, the Red Flour Beetle.
Cat Tattooing Cat from Hangover Square (2022). MA Fine Art Degree Show, September 2022, School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds. Photograph by Jules Lister.