Robert Zhao Renhui was born in 1983 in Singapore, where he currently lives and works. Zhao’s work is based on the concept of doubt and uncertainty, and in his work he tests to the limit the principles behind the dissemination of knowledge and acceptance of truths. Primarily photographic, Zhao’s practice is drawn from observations and research into the natural world. But it is not direct documentation; instead, he constructs and layers the subject with narratives, interweaving the real and the fictional, sowing a seed of doubt in the viewer about the objectivity of the image before them. Through his photographs, but also through a borrowing of the language of science in the texts that accompany his work, Zhao tries to make people aware of how they read or consume photographs, and how they react to information in general. Zhao ties much of his work to a fictitious research organization called the Institute of Critical Zoologists (ICZ), which aims to develop a critical approach to the zoological gaze (i.e., how people view animals). Since 2009, Zhao has also been affiliated with The Land Archive (TLA), another fictitious organization, which studies humanity’s impact on his natural environment from an artist’s perspective, focusing on the history of the landscape of Singapore.
Zhao has had solo exhibitions at 2902 Gallery, Singapore (2014), Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales (2012), Bangkok University Gallery (2012), the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2011), and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan (2010). Recently, he has participated in group exhibitions at PhotoIreland, Dublin (2014), the Singapore Art Museum (2014 and 2013), the Singapore Biennale at the Peranakan Museum (2013), Musée du quai Branly, Paris (2013), and the Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore (2013). In 2011, Zhao received the Deutsche Bank Award in photography while at the University of the Arts, London. He is the fall 2014 artist in residence at Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco, and one of 15 finalists for the APB Foundation Singapore Art Prize 2014.