Selected works by Zeng Fanzhi

Zeng Fanzhi
Tiananmen

2004

Oil on Canvas

215 x 330 cm
Overlaying the image of Beijing’s infamous landmark with an iconic portrait of Mao, Zeng’s Tiananmen directly confronts China’s tenuous relationship with its recent history. Using bright bold colours, Zeng’s painting resolves as a discomforting composite of irony and optimism, fusing the veneration of revolutionary heroicism with the uncertainty of a rapidly developing future. The surface of Zeng’s painting is brought to life with a frenzied network of brush marks, replicating the inarticulate calligraphy of muffled sentiment, or the galvanisation of repressed anxiety. The figure of Mao dominates the scene, a lingering ghost presiding over popular consciousness.
Zeng Fanzhi
This Land Is So Rich In Beauty 2

2006

Oil on canvas

215 x 330 cm
Zeng Fanzhi’s paintings are immediately recognisable by their signature expressionistic style, an effect that lends provocative sensations of underlying violence, psychological tension, or supernatural aura to his lavishly rendered canvases.


With subjects ranging from portraits and rural landscapes to politically charged motifs, Zeng infuses the everyday veneer of shared experience with an ambience of transgression, reflective of both the rapidly changing terrain of contemporary Chinese culture and the negotiation of personal identity within this societal flux.


Zeng’s magnificent landscapes express the vast conceptual gulf between individual cognition and the actuality of environment. Painting with two brushes simultaneously, Zeng uses one to describe his subject, while the other meanders the canvas, leaving traces of his subconscious through processes. Through this combination of painterly realism and ’automatic’ expression, Zeng’s landscapes are transformed into near abstract fields; the depicted people and places merging both memory and imagination.
Zeng Fanzhi
Little Boy

2006

Oil on canvas

180 x 280 cm
Zeng Fanzhi
Huang Jiguang

2006

Oil on canvas

215 x 330 cm
Zeng Fanzhi
Hospital Series

1994

Oil on canvas

179.1 x 199.4 cm
Zeng’s Hospital Series is of his earliest work, and exemplifies his correlative approach between painting and psychology. His A&E waiting room is portrayed with overwhelming banality and trauma: muted tones replicate the staleness of public space, the milling crowds in the background appear hazy and remote, while rusty washes pour over the canvas replicating blood, sorrowful and repugnant. Sat centre stage are a distraught patient and cavalier doctor, juxtaposed as human anguish and the white-coated horror of bureaucracy. Their heads and hands are aggrandised to painful and clumsy scale in grotesque parody of thought and action.
Zeng Fanzhi
We n:2

2002

Oil on canvas

250 x 250 cm
We n:2 operates simultaneously as portrait and abstraction. The extreme close up of a face is uncomfortably large, its beatific features becoming imposing and oppressive. Zeng obliterates this image with a mesh of ringlet patterns. Scribbled out, barred by a defective ’screen’, the effect is continuous and mesmerising, describing an impossibility of intimate articulation and knowledge, a jumbled poetry in their imperative gesture. As Zeng’s brush marks trace through the figure, colours are dragged and repositioned, creating a ghost image, echoing multiplicity and technological distortion.

Articles

Zeng Fanzhi


In the beginning of his artistic career Zeng Fanzhi painted apocalyptic, expressionist images, thus manipulating modernist compositional effects to intensify his sinister version of reality. His representational work reveals the place of the unconscious, the aberrant, in the construction of experience.

The large, clenched hands of his subjects are almost more conspicuous than their stereotyped faces and wide-open eyes. Transcending narrative resolution, these images simply unfold. What Zeng Fanzhi re-creates in his art simulates the fatigue of contemporary experience: the rush to acquire and consume, just to the extent of feeling increasingly alienated and detached. Working in idiosyncratic ways, he reminds us how effective art can be when it collapses these varieties of experience.

He traces the eruption of the corporeal into the optical sedition of visual art.
Zeng Fanzhi's notorious mask series mark a turn in his aesthetic expression. All the figures in the series wear a white mask, which fuses so closely to the facial features that it is almost unnoticeable as a face covering. While difficult, the masks nevertheless have a peculiar, haunting power. Zeng still paints oversized, gnarled hands, but the tragedy has been superseded by the disruption of order: his figures acting seemingly tense or fearful, as if they were victims of their roles. Through the motif of the mask, Zeng Fanzhi expresses suspended reality.

The mood of his work is subtle unsettlement: It often suggests some past violence, recent or old, to which we can unravel clues - but never completely understand. His paintings are much more than sardonically recycled imagery. Zeng Fanzhi delivers an art that feels new, not in its premises but in its brutal, yet refined, vitality and constant renewal.
Zeng Fanzhi was born in 1964 in Wuhan and studied oil painting at the art academy there.

Today he lives and works in Beijing. Zeng Fanzhi has exhibited widely at acclaimed institutions such as the Shanghai Art Museum, the National Art Museum, Beijing, Kunst Museum Bonn, Germany, Santa Monica Art Centre, Barcelona, Spain, and at the Art Centre, Hong Kong.

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Source: china.shanghartgallery.com