On view from May 12 to July 11, 2020, Cai Zebin’s second solo exhibition, “A Revisit at 2 bis rue Perrel” at Capsule Shanghai consists of the artist's most recent paintings, small drawings, and installations, that extend from the artist’s continuous fascination with the relationship between the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real in creativity.


The title of this exhibition, “A Revisit at 2 bis rue Perrel” draws from Victor Brauner’s (1903-1966) eponymous painting whose work paid tribute to Henri Rousseau while living in his former residence. In Brauner’s painting, not only do we find the artist’s appropriation of Rousseau’s famous work, The Snake Charmer (1907), but also a surrealist icon of many limbs that be known as uniquely his. Hence, Cai’s adoption of this title demonstrates the artist’s intention to reveal the genealogy of images and visual resources that inform his practice, as well as asserting his position to this approach for creativity.

  • Video tour of the exhibition


    Please note: The video above requires VPN to be accessed within China. 

  • Room 1

    The works in the first room are concerned with an artist's environment and studio as a point of inspiration. These works closely reference Henri Rousseau’s work created towards the end of the 19th century and beginning 20th century. 


  • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Companion 陪伴, 2019

    Clèmence et Josephine

    Companion 陪伴, 2019

    While studying Rousseau's painting, Cai became interested in the painter’s self-portrait Moi-même, portrait paysage (1890), and particularly intrigued by the detail of the palette with the names of his wives Clèmence and Josephine, written on it. This painting is handled in a unique way as the artist is larger-than-life; even taller than the Eiffel tower and flags on the boat. The handling is interesting of the two minuscule background figures who actually stand in the same space as the artist and should be the same size. At the time, no other artist was treating and distorting space in this way. As Cai Zebin went on analyzing this painting, he sought to create the same feeling in his own painting, Companion (2019) - Artist and palette and love as a memory in the form of a sculpture. He thought the act was like a hug. This painting’s handling also distorts space in the sizes of the figures. For example, the hand painted on the left side is intentionally large and the hand towards the top is smaller. This distorts foreground and background in the painting.

  • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Blossom 绽放, 2019

    Artists' Tools

    Blossom 绽放, 2019

    Relating to the painting, Blossom (2019), is an image of artists’ tools such as paint brushes. The composition reminds of Bouquet de fleurs (1909) by Henri Rousseau. Every artist handles their paint brushes differently. Each artists’ paint brushes become frayed after usage, and Cai thought he could paint them like flowers. On the left side of the painting, two shapes are handled in a similar way to Rousseau’s background figures in Moi-même, portrait paysage (1890), in the sense of painting a large object and changing it to smaller. This imagery is from one of Cai's sculptures created two years ago, called Vision (2018) and displayed at the Jing'an Sculpture Park. Essentially, larger objects become smaller and smaller objects become larger.

  • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Salut, Self-portraits #3 你好,自画像#3, 2019

    Artists' Palettes

    Salut, Self-portraits #3 你好,自画像#3, 2019

    As he was looking at Henri Rousseau's paintings, Cai was simultaneously looking at other artists' works and realized how unique each artists' palette is. Each artist's habits as a painter are reflected in their palette. Following, he sought to combine the different palettes in one totem-like sculpture in the painting, Salut (2019). On top is Paul Gauguin's palette. In the middle is Picasso and on the top-right side is Chagalle. On the left is Matisse. The image of a green apple is a reference to Magritte's apple. Towards the back on the lower right side is Dali identified by his recognizable moustache and in the middle Paul Klee.

  • Room 2 - The Sketches Room

    “How does a work of art come into being?” - A Reflection on Self-Portrait

    In the adjacent room are two mirror works. Mirrors act as a conceptual idea on how to paint a self-portrait. Cai thought of ideas of how to create an image that reflected this conceptual idea or process of thinking. The self-portrait brings together the idea of a person, a mirror, a palette, painting brushes, and tools. Cai thought of the question, ”Can I make a painter’s palette a mirror?” Combining these self-portrait requirements, he created his own version of a self-portrait.

    Moreover, the palette-shape mirror, the most subtle yet pivotal device in this exhibition, not only references to the one Henri Rousseau holds in his self-portrait in front of the Eiffel Tower but also projects what Jacque Lacan defines the functions of the mirror for bringing together the real, the symbolic and the imaginary. In other words, our reflection in the mirror, as artist and viewer, continues to relay as we explore the evolution of creativity with the understanding of the context in which we inhabit.  

  • The Snake Charmer

    The Snake Charmer

    In this room are also Cai's studies that reflect his thinking or art history references that influenced his current work. The series of Manuscripts show the process of how an image evolves. 

    In one of the framed manuscripts in the room, the Manuscript 17 (2019), hangs adjacent to Cai's artist book. The motif of the Snake Charmer (French: La Charmeuse de Serpents) takes inspiration from a 1907 oil painting by French Naïve artist Henri Rousseau. Henri Rousseau also painted a separate version in preparation of this one. It is a depiction of a woman with glowing eyes playing a flute in the moonlight by the edge of a dark jungle with a snake extending towards her from a nearby tree. Cai's series of manuscripts are in large part strongly influenced by Rousseau's scenes of imaginary jungles inhabited by animals and people.

  • Manuscripts

    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 18 手稿 18, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 18 手稿 18, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 29 手稿 29, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 29 手稿 29, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 33 手稿 33, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 33 手稿 33, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 52 手稿 52, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 52 手稿 52, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 54 手稿 54, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 54 手稿 54, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 75 手稿 75, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 75 手稿 75, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 78手稿 78, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 78手稿 78, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 94 手稿 94, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 94 手稿 94, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 06 手稿 06, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 06 手稿 06, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 07 手稿 07, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 07 手稿 07, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 104 手稿 104, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 104 手稿 104, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 120 手稿 120, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Manuscript 120 手稿 120, 2019
  • ROOM 3

    How to translate and transfigure all of these visual resources available on to the canvas?

    For this exhibition, the scope of the artist’s visual resources expands to include a broader spectrum of visual culture, ranging from the classical paintings to pop cultural icons of the present. Furthering what Henri Rousseau stated in the early 20th Century on taking nature as his realm of inspiration. For Cai Zebin, "Imagination is the sum of all my visual experiences from reality” written on a small painting among the many revealed to his viewers. This statement is also considered a prism to the condition of artistic practice today. 

  • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Revisit 旧地重游, 2019

    From the Snake Charmer to the Three Graces - A Journey revisiting the classics

    Revisit 旧地重游, 2019

    While studying and appropriating the iconography of Eve in the Snake Charmer, Cai thought of the Three Graces in the Pompeii fresco. The large-dimensional painting in this exhibition, conjures many visual elements that complicate our possible interpretation of this work on canvas. The three central figures are draped in black from head to toe, each holding a red ball in one hand while having their mouths wide open.

    To those viewers who are informed in visual culture, these three figures have been iconic over the centuries. They may immediately recall many classics in art history ranging from Antonio Canova’s Neo-Classical sculpture, The Three Graces, to Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera, to Raphael’s Three Graces from the Renaissance, to even Andre Derain’s The Dancer in the post-impressionist period. While painting the three figures, Cai also thought of Oliver Isaac's The Browne Brothers (1598) and Rene Magritte's The Man of Sea (1927). At the same time, what's once depicted as nudes throughout the history of art is now draped in black latex wetsuit, what conveyed peace and serenity is now replaced with a sense of awe. 

    As the disco lights in red beaming at them from all directions, the stage on which they stand begins to resemble a scene in Andrzej Zulawski’s film, My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days (1989). Furthermore, the area off stage and the high-rises on the back seem like two different spatial dimensions.

  • Serpentine shapes

    In the middle room adjacent to Revisit, we are confronted with a group of paintings that take serpentine forms and snakes as a leitmotif. Cai's fascination with the theme of the snake started with an earlier work, The Snake Charmer (2019), previously exhibited at his solo project Laval at Paris Internationale in 2019. The inspiration for this works comes from André Derain's The Dance (1906). On this painting, Cai resarched on the affinities between Derain and Rousseau's works, particularly the scenes of jungle inhabited by people and wild animals, to project a sense of naiveté. 

    The Snake Charmer #2 (2019) references to the iconography of Medusa, winged human females with living venomous snakes in place of hair, turning to stone those who gaze into her eyes. The artist converted the image to a central portrait with a single snake. From a distance, the snake looks like black hair. Cai created an image of a snake atop a head with an exaggerated facial expression, the facial features resembling portraits of ancient Roman frescos.

    The Snake Charmer #3 is derived from the previous image but now with multiple snakes, still referencing Medusa’s form., the snakes are handled in a contemporary manner referencing modern fashion brands. The yellow snake is Gucci’s imagery of a snake and the blue snake is from an automobile brand.

    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Snake Charmer#2 耍蛇人#2, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Snake Charmer#2 耍蛇人#2, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Snake Charmer #3 耍蛇人#3, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Snake Charmer #3 耍蛇人#3, 2019
    • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, The Snake Charmer 耍蛇人, 2019
      Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, The Snake Charmer 耍蛇人, 2019
  • Adam, Eve, the Indigenous, and Surrealism

    Biblical icons of the serpent and the apple or contemporary icons such as Snow White and the witch tempting her with the poisonous apple, metamorphize in Cai's works, shedding light on the mind of the artist. Each visual cue embedded with many layers of meanings, as well as their evolution from the context in which they first emerged, influences how we perceive them today. Hence, their coming together on canvas opens up the potential for their reception now. 

  • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Reply 回信, 2019

    The bitten apple

    Reply 回信, 2019

    A half-eaten apple dominates the painting in the foreground. In the negative space created by the bitten apple, is recognizable the silhouette of a face. An interesting point is the handling of the hand with an opening that resembles an eye in the moonlight.

  • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Dedicated to the Glimmer #3 献给微光#3, 2019

    Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨

    Dedicated to the Glimmer #3 献给微光#3, 2019

    The painting, Dedicated to the Glimmer #3 (2019), is related to the work, Revisit. Henri Rousseau’s influence on future artists is significant such as Magritte, and surrealist artists. They would often paint a candle as if it was a snake. Taking this motif, Cai created this image.

  • ROOM 4

    Images evolving

    The last of the room hosts three paintings: Breeze #2, Dedicated to the Glimmer #3 and Confusion in the Midnight.

  • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Breeze #2 微风 #2, 2019

    Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨

    Breeze #2 微风 #2, 2019

    The inspiration for this work comes from a work by Henri Rousseau, The Wedding Party (1905)

    In particular, the wedding dress of the bride in Rousseau's work feels light as if it is floating in the middle of the image. Cai created first a smaller painting of a face mask floating in the woods (Breeze, 2019). This painting then led him wanting to create a larger version of it. As he was painting this image, he also thought of Manet’s painting, A Bar at le Folies-Bergère (1882). He intended to create a foreground in the form of a sink in front of a mirror image of a large face mask object. The experience of looking at this painting is like looking at a mirror as if the events occur behind the viewer. There is a spatial relationship between Breeze #2 (2019) and the outdoor face mask installation behind the viewer. Cai painted the feeling of wind in the movement of the face mask and its environment. 

  • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, Confusion at Midnight 午夜困惑, 2019

    Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨

    Confusion at Midnight 午夜困惑, 2019

    This painting reflect another angle in which Cai analyzed Rousseau’s painting, The Wedding Party (1905).

    In Henri Rousseau’s painting, the dog depicted in the foreground is interesting in how weighty it is. Taking this idea, Cai create a playful image of a light object being compressed by a heavy object, resulting in the image of a cat on top of fabric. The facial expression on the fabric is painted as if it is floating.

  • Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨, The Glimmer's Melody 微光之曲, 2019

    Cai Zebin 蔡泽滨

    The Glimmer's Melody 微光之曲, 2019

    The Glimmer’s Melody  (2019) also has an important historical reference, Adam and Eve. Cai treated the painting like a contemporary version of this theme and tried to convey the idea through the different temperatures in light – one is warm and the other is cold. We also notice the returning visual images of the serpentine-shaped candle on the foreground and the Snake Charmer on the background.

  • ARTIST BOOK 'LAVAL', 艺术家书《拉瓦尔》 ARTIST BOOK 'LAVAL', 艺术家书《拉瓦尔》 ARTIST BOOK 'LAVAL', 艺术家书《拉瓦尔》 ARTIST BOOK 'LAVAL', 艺术家书《拉瓦尔》 ARTIST BOOK 'LAVAL', 艺术家书《拉瓦尔》 ARTIST BOOK 'LAVAL', 艺术家书《拉瓦尔》



    Laval is an artist book comprising of Cai Zebin’s personal notes, impetuses behind creating each work, and historical references. The book serves as a key to access Cai Zebin’s nuanced imagery as he weaves history, personal studies, and contemporary culture in a seamless monologue.

    Cai Zebin’s work is as connected to his relationship to history as they are to his relationship to self. The artist reveals how imagery and process intertwine to create each painting through seemingly fluid associations of individual components, from painters’ palettes to the Three Graces. Comprising of notes between 2019-2020, the artist book is a direct dive into Cai Zebin’s thoughts as he navigates contemporary visual culture in the context of how imagery evolves, perceived, and exists on a canvas. Through studying other painter’s individualistic depictions of emotions and spirits, Cai Zebin reinterprets his own experiences in his self-portrait.
    “In the process, I realized that regardless of differences between artistic languages and style, the palette can be a good medium to bridge these differences.”
    Cai Zebin mines the rich history of visual culture to ground his own practice that goes beyond words. The term Laval is derived from the town of Laval located by the Loire Valley, the birthplace of French painter Henri Rousseau (1844-1910).