I/We: the Paintings of Zeng Fanzhi 1991-2003 will open on March 8, 2003 which organized by Shanghai Art Museum with the assistance of ShanghArt Gallery. With the help and effort of museum and curators, this exhibition includes about 40 pieces of main works of the artist in the past 12 years, which borrowed from different collectors and museum in Europe and American. It is not only a review exhibition for Zeng Fanzhi, but also a good opportunity for the public to enter his world and get further understanding of Chinese contemporary art through this individual case.
Zeng Fanzhi was born in 1964 in Wuhan, Hubei. In 1991 he graduated from Oil Painting department, Hubei Academy of Fine Arts. After the big critic to his first solo exhibition in Wuhan in 1991, the second year he moved to Beijing become an independent artist which is very rare at that period. In the last decade, his works were exhibited in numbers of important international exhibitions, such as China's New Arts, Post-1989, (1992, Hong Kong Art Center), Out of Middle Kingdom: Chinese Avant-Gardes Art (1995, Santa Monica Arts Center), Kulture das Welt (1995, Hamburg), Question Marks (Singapore National Museum of Arts, 1997) and etc. Since middle-1990s, Zeng Fanzhi was also begun to exhibit inside China because of his un-ignorable success. He was involved in the several main exhibitions such like the 50 years of Chinese Oil Painting (1999, National Art Museum), New Images (2001, National Art Museum, traveled to Shanghai Art Museum, Guangzhou Art Museum, and Sichuan Art Museum). As established artist, Zeng Fanzhi also have several solo exhibition in different cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, and earn a good praise.
To people familiar with Chinese contemporary painting, Zeng Fanzhi's success is closely related to his mature expressionist style and his attention to the themes of death. In these works, the language of canvas is direct and the sense of momentum and unique attention of a young life towards death, sickness and pain won him a fine reputation. After his moving to Beijing, the mask became the most significant symbol in Zeng Fanzhi's works. Worth of note is that Zeng Fanzhi seems to have deliberately repressed those methods of expressionism that he can easily master C he has made only limited use of them in the hands and face. At the same time, lines began to have the same molding effect of bush strokes. The works became simple and complicated background and details vanished to be replaced with smooth backdrops and strange bright spots. The spots come into a logical collusion with the bright lines on the bodied of the main characters. The smoothness of backgrounds compressed with the depth of the canvas and the scattering of light rays intensified the surreal sense created by the images. With the evolution of this series the works begin to become brighter and an assortment of landscaped appear in the background. Two diametrically opposed emotions of humor and anxiety are interwoven in his works and these are exactly the two extremes of experience that our urbanized lives have divulged to us. In his recent works, another subtle transformation occurred. The directness of Zeng Fanzhi's early works was re-emphasized. Aside from the bush strokes and lines, the artist began to use the penetration between oil colors as the major structural and organizational technique on the canvas. While destroying the integrality of the image, they also provided it with on unprecedented sense of dimensionality. These works evoke our natural instincts, intuition and even physiological instinctive "reactions" though the sense of incompletion and collision of the works.
Just like any works of art, the significance and value in Zeng Fanzhi's works will provoke different evaluations from different people. However, what is certain is that the clear line of development in his works, the efforts made to break through and the achievement in successful styles provide highly valuable references for our understanding of contemporary Chinese paintings and present a resonant answer to the questions pose above. What Zeng Fanzhi has experienced is the unprecedented urbanization of Chinese society, same as his expression. During this process, interactions and ways of existence have undergone extraordinary changes. Zeng Fanzhi has deeply yet concisely capture it all in his creation, such as anxious, humor, un-integrality and destroy as well. In the last 12 years Zeng Fanzhi creates various of spiritual portraits of Chinese contemporaries. On this perspective, we say the figures in his paintings are not only me/I but also us/WE.