Zeng Fanzhi - portrait

Zeng Fanzhi

China 1964

Abstract Art


Zeng Fanzhi
Zeng Fanzhi
March 22, 2017
Music, Gestalt, .

A contemporary Chinese artist, born in 1964 in Wuhan, Hubei Province – Zeng Fanzhi is best known for his expressionist art. The emotional directness his work projects are more than not weighted with psychological and political overtones. Zeng studied oil painting at the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts, and he was strongly influenced by German Expressionism. This kind of aesthetic is visible in many of his artworks. Zeng’s artworks are easily recognizable by his signature expressionistic style. His paintings possess an underlying violence, a feeling of an upheaval, sort of psychological tension, both shown on the canvas and that which the viewer might feel. Fanzhi paints portraits, rural landscapes, and the omnipresent politically charged motifs, still not lacking beauty.

 the chinese artist works are on exhibition in beijing hong kong and china gallery in 2013
Zeng Fanzhi – Portrait, 2007 (Left) – Self-portrait, 2008 (Right), photo via acquavellagalleries.com

Beauty of Beijing Solitude

After moving to Beijing in the early 1990’s, Zeng felt alone and alienated from the friends and family he left behind in Wuhan. His art displayed an immediate shift, corresponding to the pomposity inherent to his new urban life. This Chinese artist’s response to the new superficial environment came in his seminal Mask Series, which depict the tensions between the Zeng’s existential concerns and the contemporary environment. He began the Mask Series in 1994, as a reaction to the overwhelming feelings of solitude. The figures in these paintings are well-dressed but wearing white masks with blank expressions. This was a reaction to China’s transformation during the 1990s. These characters seem insincere, fake and correspond well to the newly found situation in China. Just like the officials who had started to wear suits and masks of another personality, only to change the surface of themselves, Zeng’s masked figures seem artificial. They are placed against flat, unnatural background, which highlights their falsity. The suspicious nature of these figures reflects Zeng’s feelings of social isolation, and the inability to connect to anyone in the busy city of Beijing.

These characters seem insincere and fake

people have an auction in abandoned home, bejing, china at his arts exhibition of hospital works
Zeng Fanzhi – Mask Series No.9 (Detail), 1994 – photo via laurakkerr.com

Paintings Exploring Nature

Zeng has a correlative approach between psychology and painting is best shown in Hospital Series, where he juxtaposes distraught patient and doctor as human anguish and the horror of bureaucracy, while the muted tones depict staleness of the crowds. In the beginnings of 2000s, Fanzhi abandoned his rough style inspired by the German expressionism, and turned to more traditional Chinese influences, looking at the work of Song Dynasty. This dramatically changed his technique. Following his new inspiration, Zeng turned to landscape art. This could have been his escape from the city, as this Chinese philosophy speaks of man’s relationship to nature, and its beauty, where people are insignificant in relation to the Universe. His striking landscapes express a notion of the omnipresent gulf between individual cognition and the reality of the environment. His peculiar style of painting simultaneously with two brushes allows him to describe his subject with one, as the other meanders the canvas. His passionate style leaves traces of the subconscious, turning his landscapes into borderline abstract fields.

He describes his subject and meanders the canvas

his art seen in museum by people in the gallery home the news about the exhibition in hong kong terms
Zeng Fanzhi – Lion, 2008 – photo via acquavellagalleries.com

Chinese Maestro in Action

For this Chinese artist, it is this working process that can almost be compared with performance art. What Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and other great contemporary painters are to the Western world, Zeng is to the Eastern. When painting, Fanzhi turns into a maestro in action, he paints wholeheartedly, vivaciously, relentlessly. Hoping on and off elevated platforms, reaching the center of his immense canvas. He creates chaotic strokes by brushing and splashing paint, creating spontaneous and yet elaborate artworks. His work dissipates all comfort, composed of irony and optimism, fusing revolution and uncertainty. The frenzied brush marks bring his paintings to life and resonate emotions, as the layers of paint dry and convey what is food for thought. In his painting Tiananmen, 2004, the figure of Mao seems as a lingering ghost over popular consciousness and still dominates the scene.

The frenzied brush marks bring his art to life

 contact Gallery for artist terms of home
Zeng Fanzhi – Tiananmen, 2004 – photo via saatchigallery.com

Painting as Meditation

Although his works show suffering, and sometimes are formidable in their nature, just like the motifs he depicts, Zeng says painting is meditation and not suffering. His works have been shown in museums and galleries all over the world. One of his works from the Mask Series became the highest-grossing work by an Asian contemporary artist. And his work The Last Supper was sold in 2013 for a record-breaking US$23 million. Zeng’s pieces are exhibited in galleries and museums around the world.

Zeng lives and works in Beijing.

Featured image: Zeng Fanzhi – portrait(detail) – photo via scmp

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017Zeng FanzhiHong Kong Convention& Exhibition CenterSolo
2014Right Is Wrong: Four Decades of Chinese Art from the M+ Sigg Collection - Bildmuseet, UmeåGroup
2014 Asian Crossover 2C for ART Salzburg, SalzburgGroup
2014Group Show Gagosian Gallery, ParisGroup
2012–2013Zeng Fanzhi, Gagosian Gallery, London, England Solo
2011Zeng Fanzhi, Gagosian Gallery, Hong KongSolo
2011The World Belongs to You, Palalazzo Grassi, Venice, ItalyGroup
2011Fusion, Contemporary Art Exhibition, Yiyuan Space, Wuhan, ChinaGroup
2010Zeng Fanzhi: The Sublime, Union Temple, Brooklyn, USASolo
2010Zeng Fanzhi, Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2010Zeng Fanzhi, The National Gallery of Foreign Art, Sofia, Bulgaria Solo
2010Made in popland, National Museum of Contemporary art, Gwacheon, KoreaGroup
2010And-Writers 2010, Nan Jing Biennale, Jiangsu Provingcial Art Museum, Nangjing, ChinaGroup
2010 The Constructed Dimension, 2010 Chinese Contemporary Art Invitational Exhibition, National Art Musume of China, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2010Reshaping History: Chinart from 2000-2009, Special Documenta, China National Convention Center, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2010Thirty Years of Chinese Contemporary Art, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2010Fairy Tales: Selections from the MaGMA's collection, Opera Gallery, SingaporeGroup
2010Photo Exhibition of Contemporary Artists, Today Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2009Zeng Fanzhi, Godia Fundation, Barcelona, SpainSolo
2009Art Beijing 2009--Zeng Fanzhi, Art Fairs Agricultural Exhibition Centre of China, Beijing, China Solo
2009Narcissus looks for Echo, Zeng Fanzhi Suzhou Exhibition, Suzhou Museum, Jiangsu Province, China Solo
2009Zeng Fanzhi, Acquavella Gallery, New York, USASolo
2009First Annual Conference of Collectors of Chinese Contemporary Art, Hejingyuan Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2009Retrospect and Exploration, Hu Bei Province Art Museum, Wuhan, ChinaGroup
2009Another scene: artists' projects, concepts and ideas, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2009Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, USAGroup
2009China Gold, Museum Maillol, Paris, FranceGroup
2009Making World, 53rd Venice Biennial, La Biennale, Venice, ItalyGroup
2009Boao Asia Contemoprary Art Exhibition – Contemplation and Communication, Boao Asian Forum International Meeting Center, Hainan, ChinaGroup
2009Contemporary Art from Hunan & Hubei 1985 – 2009, Guangdong Art Museum, Guangdong, ChinaGroup
2008Tai Ping You Xiang-Zeng Fanzhi, ShanghART Beijing, ChinaSolo
2008YUZ Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art,YUZ Museum, Darmawangsa Square unit 31-33, The City Walk, JI. Darmawangsa VI&IX, Group
2008FIAC 2008, Booth B12, Art Fairs Grand Palais, Paris, FranceGroup
2008The Love of Art: Collection of Contemporary Art in China, Today Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008The Revolution Continues, New Art From China, Saatchi Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
2008Our Future, Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation Collection, Ullens Foundation, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008Case Studies of Artists in Art History and Art Criticism, SZ Art Center, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008Writing on the Wall, Chinese New Realism and Avant-Garde in the Eighties and Nineties, Groninger Museum, Groningen, The NetherlandsGroup
200821st Century China: Art between Identity and Transformation, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, ItalyGroup
2008Academic and Un-Academic II, Exhibition of Yibo Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2007China Now, Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, The NetherlandsGroup
2007Floating: New generation of Art in China, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, KoreaGroup
2007Zeng FanZhi Idealism, Singapore Art Museum, SingaporeSolo
2007Zeng FanZhi 1989-2007, Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, KoreaSolo
2007Thermocline of Art: New Asian Waves, ZKM (Center for Art and Media), Karlsruhe, GermanyGroup
2007Time Difference, Initial Access, Wolverhampton, EnglandGroup
2006Contemporary China, PKM Gallery, Seoul, KoreaGroup
2006Zhou Chunya, Zeng Fanzhi and Ji Dachun, LONGRUN ART, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2006Zeng Fanzhi's Solo-Exhibition with New Paintings, ShanghArt Gallery, Shanghai, China Solo
2006Zeng Fanzhi – Paintings, Wedel, London, EnglandSolo
2006Zeng Fanzhi, Gallery ShangART, Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami, USAGroup
2005Sky, Fine Art Literature, Wuhan, ChinaGroup
2005Majong, Chinesische Gegenwartskunst aus der Sammlung Sigg”, Kunstmuseum Bern, SwitzerlandGroup
2005Zeng Fanzhi, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong KongGroup
2005China, contemporary painting, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio, Bologna, ItalyGroup
2004Scapes 1989-2004, the paintings of Zeng Fanzhi He Xiangning Art Muesum, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
2004Face, Soobin Gallery, SingaporeGroup
2004Unmask the Mask-Zeng Fanzhi, Gallery Artside, KoreaGroup
2004Exhibition of Nominate for Art Documentation, Art Gallery of Hubei Academy of Art, ChinaGroup
2004Face to Face: Six Artists and One Era, Robert & Li Art Gallery, Tainan, TaiwanGroup
2003I We, 1991-2003, The painting of Zeng Fanzhi, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2003Left Hand, Right Hand: A Sino-German Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Beijing 798 Space Art & Culture, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2003Invitational Gallery Exhibition, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2003Paris-Pekin, Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris, FranceGroup
2002The First Triennial of Chinese Arts, Guangzhou Art Museum, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2002Korean and Chinese painting: 2002 New Expression, Seoul Arts Center, Seoul, KoreaGroup
2001Raw Beneath the Mask, ShanghArt Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2001Toward a New Image: Twenty years of Chinese Contemporary Painting,National Art Museum, Beijing; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; Guangzhou Art Museum, Guangzhou; Group
2001UntitledModern Art Museum, Chengdu, ChinaGroup
2001Academic and Un-Academic, Yibo Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2000 Futuro Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Center of Macau, MacauGroup
1999Chinese Oil Painting for Fifty Years, International Exhibition Center, Beijing, ChinaGroup
1999Open Enterance, Dong Yu Museum of Contemporary Art, Shenyang, ChinaGroup
1999Zeng Fanzhi Works 1993-1998, CIFA Gallery, Beijing, ChinaGroup
1999Zeng Fanzhi Works 1993-1998, ShanghART Gallery Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1999It Is Me, Forbidden City, Beijing, ChinaGroup
19978+8-1, Hong Kong, London, HamburgGroup
1997Question Marks, Singapore Art Museum, SingaporeGroup
1996Reality, Present and Future, International Art Palace, Beijing, ChinaGroup
1996First Academic Exhibition of Chinese Art, China Art Gallery, Beijing: Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong KongGroup
1995Out of the Middle Kingdom: Chinese Avant-Garde Art, Santa Monica Arts Center, Barcelona, SpainGroup
1995Des Pais del Centre, Avantguardes Artistiques Xineses, Santa Monica Art Centre, Barcelona, SpainGroup
1995Beyond Ideology: New Art from China, Der Haus der Kulture das Welt Hamburg, GermanyGroup
1995Behind the Mask, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong KongGroup
1994Exhibition of Works Selected by Art Critics, China Art Gallery Beijing, ChinaGroup
1994Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, Fung Ping Shan Museum, Hong Kong University, Hong KongGroup
1992Guangzhou Biennal, Oil Painting of the Nineties, Guangzhou Convention Centre, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
1991Chinese Oil Painting for Fifty Years, International Exhibition Center, Beijing, ChinaGroup
1990Zeng Fanzhi, Hubei Institute of Fine Arts Gallery, Wuhan, ChinaGroup