Zhang Enli

China 1965

Neo-expressionism, Abstract Expressionism

Zhang Enli
Zhang Enli
November 12, 2014

Zhang Enli is a renowned Chinese artist from Shanghai that despite starting his career in the 1990s and belonging to the post-socialist generation doesn’t share their usual aesthetic preoccupations in arts. Instead, he follows his own unique perspective on painting, art, humans, nature and objects – revealing overlooked, everyday details. He uses watercolors, oil, and canvas but his techniques are very similar to traditional Chinese ink painting, with expressive and vivid brushstrokes. In that sense, he continues a specific connection to Buddhist philosophy, transformed and given in a highly stylized contemporary form.

contact the press in the london and shanghai museum
Zhang Enli – Four Seasons, 2015, (Installation view) – Image courtesy of Hauser & Wirth Somerset

The Begginings in the Expressionist Manner

Zhang Enli is born in 1965 in Jilin Province in China. He graduated in 1989 from the the Arts & Design Institute of Wuxi Technical University, Shanghai. From the beginnings, he distinguished himself from the usual movements in China, such as Cynical Realism, Kitsch Art or Political Pop, and painted portraits of Shanghai people in an Expressionist manner with the use of dark, discordant and dense colors. A part of his artistic practice in the 1990s was to paint himself in the portraits of others, claiming that isn’t quite possible to distinguish the knowledge of yourself from the knowledge of others. In the later phase, this Shanghai based artist started painting numerous objects, usually a one or two enlarged objects on a canvas such as images of cardboard boxes, tin chests, ashtrays. In them, he infiltrated a general idea about a work of art as a container and started identifying everything he paints with a container.

visit the museum villa in Shanghai to get the press release in 2013
Zhang Enli – Space Painting, 2014 at Art Basel Courtesy of ShanghART

The Big Change in Zhang Enli’s style

Further on in his career, Zhang Enli made a big turn and started painting in a lighter and more airy manner. He focused more on abstract paintings and the idea of a container got a much more concrete form – monumental site-specific installation that he calls Space paintings. Since 2010 he has been working on this kind of projects highlighting the importance of personal relationship with the given space in which he works; he tries to get exposed to it as much as possible and to receive stimulants from it. Zhang Enli makes spaces that looked neglected and lost in time, sentient again. An ephemeral character is created by semi-transparent brushstrokes, thin washes of pigment and traces of turpentine dropping which altogether makes a pulsating image. His specific mark is that the watercolors are rendered in oil, which all creates a chaotic and expressive but gentle impression.

Spaces that looked neglected and lost in time become sentient again

visit the exhibitions in shanghai, london, shanghart, birmingham and york museum in 2013
Zhang Enli – Irregular Blue Lines, 2016 – Image via frieze

International Recognition

Some of the most famous paintings of this Chinese artist depict trees in a unique manner focusing on branches and the sky. One of them being a space painting of a celling view of the Villa Croce Museum of Contemporary Art in Genova called Landscape. International recognition came in 2006 after the Art Basel exhibition of contemporary Chinese artists. Most famous of his solo exhibitions that earned him even bigger fame is the Zhang Enli show at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham and the Zhang Enli exhibition Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland, both in 2009. In 2010 he had a major exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Gallery in London and they represented him alongside the ShanghArt Gallery since. Zhang Enli’s paintings have been displayed for view in various important museum exhibitions in Shanghai and elsewhere. Among his most notable solo shows at Hauser & Wirth Zürich in 2012, then at the Shanghai Art Museum in 2011 and at Hauser & Wirth New York, New York as well in 2011. At the moment, he lectures at the Arts and Design Institute of Donghua University, Shanghai.

Zhang Enli lives and works in Shanghai, China.

Featured image: Zhang Enli – Image via luxartasia.com
All images used for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017UntitledFirstsite, Colchester, England Solo
2016Intangible ??Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2016The Uncertain, or the Shelved…ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2016Sense & SensibilityZART Center, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2016An Art BanquetChun Art Museum, Shanhai, ChinaGroup
2016Silk ArenaSuzhou Silk Museum, Suzhou, ChinaGroup
2016Cher(e)s ami(e)sLe Centre Pompidou, Paris, FranceGroup
2016We, A Community of Chinese Contemporary ArtistsChi K11 Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2015Zhang EnliMoca, Taipei, TaiwanSolo
2015Zhang EnliShanghART Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2015Four SeasonsHauser & Wirth, Somerset, EnglandSolo
2015Shanghai EverMoca, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2015About Painting TooOcat, Xian, ChinaGroup
2015ComfortShanghART Beijing, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2015Jing Shen. The Act of Painting in Contemporary ChinaPAC - Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Milan, ItalyGroup
2015My House Is Your HouseSPSI Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2015Garden SplendorsJinji Lake Art Museum, Suzhou, ChinaGroup
2015PaperShanghART Singapore, SingaporeGroup
2015The System of ObjectsMinsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2015China 8. Contemporary Art from China at the Rhine and RuhrLehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, GermanyGroup
201528 ChineseSan Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio TXGroup
2015Nobody Knows WhereAurora Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2015Dont Shoot the Painter - UBS Art CollectionVilla Reale's Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Milan, ItalyGroup
2015Myth/History II: Shanghai GalaxyYUZ Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2015Blow-UP—Chinese New Painting at Post Financial Crisis EraChangjiang Museum of Contemporary Art, Changjiang, ChinaGroup
2015Die Beiläufigkeit der Dinge (The Incidental Nature of Things)Overbeck-Gesellschaft, Lübeck, GermanyGroup
2015Within Sight - Chinese New Painting at Post Financial Crisis EraChongqing Changjiang River Contemporary Art Museum, Chongqing, ChinaGroup
2014The BoxHauser & Wirth, London, EnglandSolo
2014Space Painting by Zhang EnliK11 Art Foundation Pop- Up Space, Hong Kong, ChinaSolo
2014HairShanghai Night Club, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2014Re-ViewLong Museum West Bund, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2014Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Contemporary ArtVancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, CanadaGroup
2014Yokohama Triennale 2014Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, JapanGroup
2014Broken. Stand, The New Painting to OrderLong Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2014Aura of PoetryMuseum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2014Hans van Dijk: 5000 NamesUllens Center for Contemporary Art / Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China / Rotterdam, The NetherlandsGroup
2014Myth/History: Yuz Collection of Contemporary ArtYuz Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2013LandscapeMuseo d'Arte contemporanea di Villa Croce, Genova, ItalySolo
2013Space PaintingICA, London, EnglandSolo
201328 ChineseRubell Family Collection / Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami, USAGroup
2013Metropolis: Reflections on the Modern CityBirmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, EnglandGroup
2013OClock. Time design. Design Time. Cafa Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2013Foundational WorkShangART Gallery, Shangai, ChinaGroup
2012TopologyHauser & Wirth, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2012Place of residenceShanghART, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2012On Contemporary Era - The First Chinese Oil Painting BiennialThe National Art Museum of China, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2012People and Object - Across MemorySSCAC Suzhou, Suzhou, ChinaGroup
2012The Seventh Shenzhen Sculpture Biennial - Accidental Message: Art is Not a SystemOCAT Shenzhen, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
2012FaceMinsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2012Revitalising - A Gathering Upon Awakening of InsectsShanghART Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2012Kochi-Muziris BiennialKochi, IndiaGroup
2011Zhang EnliHauser & Wirth, New York NYSolo
2011Zhang EnliShanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2011GuanxiToday Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2011The 6th Curitiba Biennial: Beyond the CrisisInstituto Paranaense de Arte, Curitiba, BrazilGroup
2011RelationGuangdong Museum, Guangdong, ChinaGroup
2011Breaking AwayBoers-Li Gallery, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2010Zhang EnliMinsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2010Zhang EnliHauser & Wirth London, London, EnglandSolo
2010Thirty Years of Chinese Contemporary ArtMinsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2010BedsShanghart, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2010Gwangju Museum of ArtGwangju Biennial Hall, Gwangju, KoreaGroup
2009Zhang EnliKunsthalle Bern, Berne, Switzerland (Travelling Exhibition)Solo
2009Zhang EnliIkon Gallery, Birmingham, England (Travelling Exhibition)Solo
20095x5 CastelloEACC - Espai d'art contemporani de Castelló, Castello, SpainGroup
2008Zhang EnliShanghART H-Space, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2008Translocalmotion7th Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2008SelectedShanghART H-Space, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2008Art Multiple 2008Ke Center for the Contemporary Arts, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2008Blackbridge 08 Contemporary Art ExhibitionHall B ArtGallery Blackbridge, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008The World of Others: A Contemporary Art ExhibitionMuseum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2008China new vivison - the contemporary collection of Shanghai Art MuseumLa Spezia Contemporary Art Museum, La Spezia, ItalyGroup
2007Zhang EnliHauser & Wirth Zürich, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2007Shanghai Contemporary (special artist presentation)Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2007Individual Positions 1ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2007Size Matters - XXL - Recent Large-scale paintingsHudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill NY, USAGroup
2007Summer Exhibition 2007Royal Academy of Art, London, EnglandGroup
2007Circulez! Il ny a rien à voir (with Moshekwa Langa)Objectif_exhibitions, Antwerp, BelgiumGroup
2007Chinas Neo PaintingShanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2006Galerie Patrick Seguin invites Hauser & WirthGalerie Patrick Seguin, Paris, FranceGroup
2006Pre-EmptiveKunsthalle Bern, Berne, SwitzerlandGroup
2006Infinite Painting and Global RealismVilla Manin Centro d'Arte Contemporanea, Udine, ItalyGroup
2006Contemporary Art PavilionSatellite, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2005Zhang EnliW&B House / Buero Friedrich, Berlin, GermanySolo
2005Open RoadCreek Art Center, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2005YCCA - Young Chinese Contemporary ArtHangart 7, Salzburg, AustriaGroup
2005In their 40sShanghART H-Space, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2004Human, Too HumanBizArt, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2004Dreaming of the Dragons Nation: Contemporary Art from ChinaIrish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, IrelandGroup
2004Matchmaking at Suzhou CreekEastLink Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2004Made in ChinaFabric and Accessories Museum, Lyon, FranceGroup
2004Of Ones Own AccordOriginal Impress Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2003OverseasSilpakorn University Gallery, Bangkok, ThailandGroup
2003It Is IPingyao International Photography Festival, Pingyao, ChinaGroup
2003Lijiang Triangle International WorkshopLijiang Triangle International Workshop, ChinaGroup
2003Different Choice. Joint Exhibition of Shanghai Artists Born in the SixtiesBandao Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2003China EditionShenzhen Sculpture Institute, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
200224.30 Contemporary Art ExhibitionBizArt, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2002Ost + West: Chinese Contemporary ArtKunsthaus Wien, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2002Quick Look! - Shanghai Zhejiang Jiangsu Anhui Contemporary Art ExhibitionGeneral Consulate of Switzerland, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2001Belgiumijing / Off TriennialShanghai, Yokohama, JapanGroup
2001Zero Point - Chinese Contemporary Art ExhibitionShanghai Normal University, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2001Opening ExhibitionChina Art Archives & Warehouse, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2000DancingShanghART, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
199999 Nanjing Modern Oil Painting Research Exchange ExhibitionArt Institute of Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, ChinaGroup
1999Global Forum - Contemporary ArtPudong World Trade Tower, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1997Four Mens WorkCanvas World Art Gallery, Amsterdam, NetherlandsGroup
1997Figuration and AbstractionChangning District Culture Centre, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1997Contemporary Chinese ArtChangning District Culture Centre, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
199797 Shanghai Oil Painting ExhibitionContemporary Art Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1995Change: China Contemporary ArtKonsthallen Götaplatsen, Gothenburg, SwedenGroup
1993Shanghai Modern Art ExhibitionYokohama Art Museum, Yokohama, JapanGroup
199292 ShaNghai Oil Painting ExhibitionShanghai Artists Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
19903rd Exhibition of Young Shanghai Artists WorksShanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1990Two Artists Contemporary ArtChina Textile University, Shanghai, ChinaGroup