Wang Wei, Co-founder and Director of Long Museum
“Zhang Enli: A Room with Colour” is the first large- scale retrospective exhibition held by Zhang Enli in Southwest China; I was very honored to be able to invite Zhang Enli to systematically present his more than 30 years of creations at Long museum Chongqing. There were more than 70 works on display, which covered Zhang’s urban portraits from the 1990s to the 2000s, the depiction of everyday objects from the 2000s to the early 2010s, as well as his abstract paintings and space painting installations in recent years.
The different stages of work reflect Zhang Enli’s 30 years of exploration in art creation, whether it is his early stage of character and portrait exploration, the latest abstract paintings, or his space painting installations, they all represent Zhang’s continuous focus on people, objects, and space. Each stage of Zhang’s works has its own style, but the changes in theme and technique are not sudden, instead it is a change that occurs naturally. When we look closely at Zhang’s different series of works, we can perceive the intimate connection between his pieces, that is, the artist’s concern for life and humanity from the beginning to the end.
In 2012, I collected Zhang Enli’s first piece of artwork, which was his piece titled “Vessel” created in 1995. Immediately after 2013, I collected his pieces “Two Jin of Beef” created in 1993 and “Bar” created in 1994. These three works were created in close years, but they happen to be different series of works in the same period. “Two Jin of beef” is one of Zhang’s most important works in his early “Butcher” series, it is filled with tension, emotion, and vibrant colours. “Bar” is from his “Pub” series, which depicts urban life in the 1990s. The colours, brushstrokes, and representations of the people in his pieces make the story in his artwork vivid. In the piece “Vessel”, the characters gently fade from the painting, and the theme of the work give way to the day-to-day objects in life that are casually placed on the table. It seems to me that this piece was Zhang’s earliest creative development and inspiration after his “Container” series in 2000.
In addition to several important pieces created by Zhang Enli in the 1990s, I also collected “The Smoker” (2002), “Big and Small Balls” (2012), ‘The Boss” (2019), “The Warrior” (2020), “A Farmer” (2020) as well as other pieces created in different periods. The themes of the works revolve around scenes of life and everyday objects, and in recent years, the expressions have become more and more condensed and highly abstract. Every piece of work I have collected I cherish very much.
In this exhibition, besides Zhang Enli’s orderly collection, he was also invited to present his “Space Painting” installations based on the space of Long Museum Chongqing, including the large-scale cardboard installations “Three-Storied Tower” (2020) located in the atrium on the first floor, and “The Colourful Floor” (2019) and “The Pendulous Pipe”（2014）in the exhibition hall on the second floor. Through these artworks, we can see Zhang’s inherent high sensitivity to space and painting. Zhang’s use of cardboard box to construct large-scale paintings installations is also a response to his long- standing concern for sparse and ordinary objects. It is precisely these ordinary things that make it easier for the viewer to enter his work and be moved by them.
I often feel a sense of relaxation when viewing Zhang’s creations, because his pieces are filled with the poetic quality of humanity. Zhang’s works are not shelf art but works that participate in daily life. I hope this exhibition will bring a brand-new artistic experience to the audience of Chongqing and the Southwest region of China!