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Zeng Fanzhi: Old and New. Paintings 1988–2023
Texte Fabrice Hergott, Richard Shiff; Interview Jane Jin


Englisch / Chinesisch
Hardcover
24 x 30 cm
176 Seiten
105 Farbabbildungen
978-3-947127-47-4
60,00 Euro


 

Mit seinen Maskenbildern wurde der chinesische Künstler Zeng Fanzhi Mitte der 1990er-Jahre weltbekannt. Er malte Menschen aus der Metropole Peking, die auf der Leinwand posierten und ihren lebendigen, aber oft ähnlichen Gesichtsausdruck als Maske vor sich hertrugen. Hier traf Zeng einen Nerv: Die prekäre Balance zwischen behaupteter Individualität und kollektiviertem Ausdruck ließ sich auf die Gesellschaftsverhältnisse in China beziehen und hatte auch im Westen Identifikationspotenzial. Das vorliegende Buch, das eine Ausstellung im Museum of Art Pudong in Shanghai dokumentiert, setzt früher an, als der Kunststudent Zeng ab 1988 Porträts in expressionistischem Stil malte. In den 2000ern begann er dann unter dem Einfluss traditioneller chinesischer Malerei eine Serie von abstrakten Landschaften aus gestrüppartigen Linien, die geisterhafte Figuren verbargen. Er zitierte Dürer und van Gogh und malte dunkle Vanitas-Totenschädel in aufgelösten Farben. Das Licht der jüngsten Sparkling Paintings ist wie eine Übertreibung postimpressionistischer Wahrnehmungstheorie – durch die Jahrzehnte ist Zengs Darstellung von inneren und äußeren Zuständen getragen durch seine Beschäftigung mit der Farbe als Material und Medium.


COLOUR, IMAGE, SCALE, BRUSHSTROKE
(Auszug aus dem Interview mit Zeng Fanzhi von Jing Jin)


Q: When did you first realize the appeal of brushstrokes?


A: In 1983. At that time, I was painting at the Dandongmen community in Wuhan. One day, around 4 p.m., my mentor Yan Liulin pointed out that my brushwork was a bit disorderly. So, I went to the Rong Bao Zhai shop, bought the largest brush I could find at the time, and experimented with it on a 4K-sized paper. I painted thick layers and kept bold brushstrokes. All of a sudden, I could create textures that had a unique sense of beauty. After that, every time I looked at other artworks, I would pay attention to the brushwork. I started experimenting with various techniques as well, including combining the brush with palette knives. On my 20th birthday, I bought some crabs, found a cobalt-blue cloth and painted a still life. The entire crab was done with a palette knife. A few years ago, I revisited this process and painted crabs again in the same way. In my view, brushstrokes not only build the texture of oil paintings but they also add an element of drawing. They keep the image fresh. That is why I’m interested in the work of Adolph Menzel, for example.


Q: Are there any other artists who have inspired you in terms of brushwork?


A: Willem de Kooning has had a significant impact. His brushstrokes convey a sense of speed and rhythm. I think he probably didn’t mix colors on the palette but on the canvas instead; that’s what makes his brushstrokes so spontaneous. He continues to inspire me to this day, because every stroke contains variations, making every act of painting fresh and interesting.


Q: Brushstrokes have always been an essential aspect of your work. The only exception is the Mask Series, where you seem to carefully conceal them.


A: As I explained earlier, I tend to be rebellious person in my creative trajectory, always challenging certain artistic habits I might have developed. Compared to my earlier work, the Mask Series features more refined colors and a quiet style. I would first construct the composition with thick brushstrokes and then scrape them all off again with a palette knife. As a result, the picture would look quite ‘flat’. This approach also allowed me to leave behind some other things found in my previous works. Then after a decade of working this way, I decided to reapply the methods I had abandoned and attempted to paint with more intense brushstrokes, which eventually led to the Abstract Landscapes.


Q: Many reviews state that the inspiration for your brushwork in Abstract Landscapes is rooted in Chinese calligraphy. Do you agree?


A: The aesthetic appeal of brushstrokes has been central in traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy from the beginning. I practiced calligraphy when I was young. However, when I began working on my series of Abstract Landscapes, I did not think of it too much. I did experiment with oil painting techniques and materials to paint “calligraphic” works—although technically this has nothing to do with calligraphy. Of course, the brushstrokes also contain rhythm and variation. Nonetheless, they rather remind me of sculpture since they lean towards constructing space. These first experiments inspired me to go further. For example, I realized that it’s actually quite difficult in the Western mode of oil painting to create a very long line. In order to do so, one has to conduct extensive research on the painting materials and modify them accordingly, which is exactly what I did.

 

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In Zusammenarbeit mit Museum of Art Pudong