Zeng Fanzhi persistently grapples with history and tradition in the face of broad and accelerated change. His aesthetic restlessness epitomizes the spirit of recent contemporary art practices in China, yet transcends any single cultural struggle. Since the late 1980s, Zeng has presented a succession of introspective and socially critical 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. Charged with psychological tension, Zeng’s paintings reveal the place of the unconscious in the construction of human experience, reflecting on the external pressures of a rapidly changing culture and the constant negotiation of personal identity within such societal flux. 

For the past decade, landscape has been a central focus. Traditional techniques overlap seamlessly with qualities of abstraction, evoking a lineage beginning with Song Dynasty depictions of idyllic, imaginary landscapes rendered in calligraphic strokes. Zeng’s vast, obscure lands are spontaneously lit with bright pinks and blues, scenes which both embrace and upend tradition, challenging conventional representation with spontaneous bursts of pure color. “They are not real landscapes,” he has remarked. “They are rather about an experience of miao wu [marvellous revelation]. Miao wu constitutes a restless journey of discovery.” Some paintings depict children who are barely visible behind intricate thickets, expanding on the themes of anonymity conveyed in the Mask paintings while also alluding to the incidental role of mankind within nature’s boundlessness and permanence. Gnarled branches crisscross over dark terrain, accented with swaths of white, teal, violet and rose. Characterized by brushwork that is both refined and heavily textured, the thick surfaces of Zeng’s canvases underscore the physicality of his process. In a surprising turn for one who dutifully appropriates a diverse range of traditional techniques, he sometimes works with two brushes in one hand, intentionally undermining his own ultraprecision. 

Zeng’s afflictive sculpture similarly engages existential themes and art-historical precedents. Layered wooden works defined by Renaissance-esque naturalism depict covered animal carcasses, obscured by uncannily rendered fabrics with butchered limbs protruding. Life-sized Mammoth’s Tusks (2010) suspend from the ceiling, a powerful evocation of the extinct species’ former presence. Moving beyond the social allegories of his early career, Zeng skillfully conflates diverse influences in his creation of enveloping fantasies. 

Zeng Fanzhi was born in Wuhan, China in 1964. Solo museum exhibitions include Singapore Art Museum(2007); Musée d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne de Metropole, France (2007); Fundacion Godia, Barcelona, Spain (2009); and Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2010). Group exhibitions include Prima Materia at Punta Della Dogana, Venice, Italy (2013) and Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (2014). A major retrospective of his paintings and sculpture at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2013). Recent solo exhibition From 1830 till now No.4 at Musée du Louvre, Paris, France (2014). 

Apart from art, Zeng applies himself continuously to works of charity and art education. Since 2006, he has made donations to disaster areas, funds for students, academic and public institutions, and has donated his work to charity auctions. He believes what comes from society should be used for society, and for this reason he will always participate in philanthropy. 

Zeng lives and works in Beijing.



 曾梵志,祖籍武汉,生于1964年。毕业于湖北美术学院油画系,现在主要生活于北京。作为最重要的中国当代艺术家之一,其作品受到世界范围内美术机构和评论家的广泛推崇。

    他的作品最初带有启示性的表现主义风格,基于自身的生活经验,观察社会、审度内心,又以细腻出众的技法呈现艺术魅力。成名之作包括两个系列,一个是1991到1992年的《协和》系列(包括《协和三联画》1-3),另一个是1992-1993年的《肉》系列(包括《肉》、《肉·卧》、《人类与肉类》等)。两个系列描绘的都是画家熟悉的场面,但他的画并非现实生活的表面再现,而是包括了强烈的心理因素。这种心理因素既是画中人物的精神状态的凝聚,又是画家本人对眼前场景的主观反应。

    值得注意的是,两个系列不但有着同样的人物形象、色调和用笔风格,而且形成一种非常特殊的“互文性”(intertextuality),意即每个系列的含义不但由自身显示,而且可以通过“互读”得到强化。我们在《协和》组画中看到躺在手术台被开刀的病人躯体,又在《肉》中看到被宰割的动物躯体。二者之间的平行和置换提出有关人性、身体、人的价值、人和动物的区别和共同性等一系列问题。

    曾梵志在90年代中发展出了他的《面具》系列,但不时地又把人物的面具摘下,暴露出他们的本来面容。这个创作过程的一个中心问题是人类的异化和对“自身”(Self)的疑问---在《面具》系列中,社会中的人不可避免地成为各自被给予的“角色”(roles),通过假面上的虚构表情和其他人发生互动。

   在《面具之后(肖像)》系列中,他极为投入地探索着各种用笔方法,包括笔的不同走向、速度、节奏和形状所可能引起的感情和心理的不同反应。与此同时,他也从没有抛弃色彩,而是在用笔的过程中结合色彩的表现力。2004年开始的《乱笔系列》,则通过当代的视角重现中国传统文化的神韵,不断探索着属于中国的艺术语言。他的过人才华使他不囿于一派一系,在创作中融合了美学与玄想、不朽与当下、形而上与具象,慌渺不经却又合理合节,活力澎湃,孜孜追求事物深义。

    评论家认为,他的作品总能改变观者对以往接触过的一切艺术的感知,强烈的表现力来源于其回忆与现实之间永恒的张力,以及在历史和现实之间的自如切换。无论是抽象或具象的手法,表现主义还是沉思式的基调,他的作品始终以独有的意象,叩问现实世界与历史时空、社会及自然环境与人类之间的关系。

    曾梵志亦从未停止过对于艺术语言的探索,他的作品始终具有很高的观赏性和视觉感染力。他个性沉静,在自己的时空中,以独立、冷静地眼光审视四周事物。他也具有强烈的好奇心,始终开放着对于周遭环境的感知能力。经过他锐利深邃的笔触,现实生活中的七情六欲——从悲伤、恋旧、热情、希望而至沉郁、焦虑、恐惧,都逐一升华成了现代生活中令人愉悦、振奋,思索的共同经验。

Right after the finalization of YOU on November 19th of 2015, 73 hours after the beginning, the artistic director and producer, Shi Li-Sanderson, had an interview in situ with the artist Zeng Fanzhi to share his experiences and thoughts on the new creation. The interview not only revealed his thoughts during the painting process, but also some aspects of his personality and his career as an artist. 

During the process of painting, five guests came into the studio to have a conversation with the artist while watching his painting method. The participants to this conversational watching were Désiré Feuerle and his wife Sara Puig, Lutz Engelke, Paul Gladston, and Willem van Gogh. They shared their impressions with the artist while forming part of this unique experience. 

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