They are not real landscapes. They are rather about an experience of miao wu [marvellous revelation]. Miao wu constitutes a restless journey of discovery.
Gagosian is pleased to present new paintings by Zeng Fanzhi, his first exhibition at the London gallery, following the Hong Kong exhibition last year.
Zeng’s aesthetic restlessness epitomizes the evolution of Chinese contemporary art in the post-1989 era, grappling with local history and tradition in the face of external influence and accelerated change. Since the beginning of his career, he has presented a succession of powerfully introspective subjects, from the haunting Hospital paintings to the visceral Meat paintings that juxtapose human subjects with butchered flesh; from the enigmatic Mask paintings to candid and startling close-up portraits; from intimate, existential still-lifes to depictions of pivotal Western cultural figures such as Francis Bacon, whose psychic portraits altered the status of the human figure in twentieth-century art. Charged with an underlying psychological tension, Zeng’s oeuvre reveals the place of the unconscious and the aberrant in the construction of human experience.
For the past decade, landscape has been a central focus of Zeng’s art. In his highly tactile scenes, the details of representation often overlap seamlessly with qualities of abstraction, as in certain traditional Chinese aesthetic objects. All are expressionistically rendered with extraordinary attention to the material nuances of the painted surface. In densely worked paintings such as Pure Land (2012) and Untitled (2012), gnarled branches crisscross over dark terrain, accented with swaths of white, teal, violet, and rose. Zeng’s fictitious place is at once luminous and bleak—unearthly bursts of vivid color are trapped in snaking brambles that obstruct yet hold the gaze. Filled with brushwork that is both refined and heavily textured, the thick surfaces underscore the physicality of Zeng’s painting process. Against these haunting landscapes, the bare yet resilient trees that survive in such harsh conditions hold the promise of renewal and rebirth.
Several works in the exhibition are inspired by the sketches of Albrecht Dürer. In a reversal of conventional East/West aesthetics, Zeng reinterprets Dürer’s intricate imagery and thin, precise brushstrokes—which resonate with traditional Chinese painting—with thick strokes of oil paint layered with a broad brush. In The Hare (2012) and Head of an Old Man (2012), the rabbit fur of the former and the flowing white beard of the latter are rendered as masses of carefully delineated, yet aggressively and broadly executed brushstrokes. In his interpretation of Dürer’s drawing Praying Hands (1508)—an iconic image that has been endlessly disseminated and reproduced—Zeng moves beyond the overt symbolism of hands clasped in prayer, intent on rendering the nuances of aging flesh in highly textured impasto.
过去十年，曾梵志以创作风景画为主 他描绘的风景充满质感，细节完美结合了抽象主义的特质，与若干传统中国美学主体相似 他以表现主义的手法作画，非常讲究画作表面颜料的细微变化 在《无题》(2012年)里，大片的白色、青色、紫色和玫瑰红衬托着深色背景上纵横交错的枝桠 曾梵志构想的世界既明亮又荒凉，鲜艳的色彩困在荆棘里，挡住视线，同时又惹人注目 他的笔触细腻而充满质感，厚实的表面强调了绘画的过程。在诡异慑人的风景里，能在恶劣环境下生存的秃树，带有重生的希望
本次部分展出的画作灵感源自阿尔布雷特•丢勒的素描 曾梵志一反传统的东西美学，以粗画笔涂上厚厚的颜料，重新演绎丢勒细致复杂的画面和精准纤细的笔触，呼应中国的传统水墨画 《兔子》(2012年)里的兔毛和《智者》(2012年)里的白胡子虽然笔触粗犷，轮廓却非常细致 在曾梵志的笔下，丢勒最广为流传和临摹的作品《祈祷》(1508年)，超越了双手紧握祈祷的表征意义，极具质感的厚颜料还呈现衰老时肉体的细微变化
Artist to Artist: Georg Baselitz and Zeng Fanzhi
On the occasion of Georg Baselitz: Years later at Gagosian, Hong Kong, Zeng Fanzhi composed a written foreword for the exhibition’s catalogue and a video message to the German painter. Baselitz wrote a letter of thanks to the Chinese artist for his insightful thoughts.
Zeng Fanzhi on Cézanne, Morandi, and Sanyu
Zeng Fanzhi speaks about curating the exhibition Cézanne, Morandi, and Sanyu at Gagosian, Hong Kong, and the connections between the three artists’ works. Interview by Jin Jing.
Zeng Fanzhi | Van Gogh
Zeng Fanzhi discusses his approach to the Zeng Fanzhi | Van Gogh exhibition in Amsterdam and the various ways the renowned Dutch painter continues to inspire artists today.
Zeng Fanzhi: The Early Years
Gladys Chung investigates the formative stages of this artist’s career.
Zeng Fanzhi’s Blue
A slideshow containing photographs of the creation of Blue (2015) by Zeng Fanzhi.
Paintings, Drawings, and Two Sculptures
November 6–December 23, 2015
555 West 24th Street, New York