Zeng Fanzhi in Zurich, London and Hong Kong in 360º
A virtual reality tour of ‘Zeng Fanzhi. In the Studio’ spanning three Hauser & Wirth locations in Zurich, London and Hong Kong. The exhibition allows viewers the opportunity to gain an unprecedented and in-depth understanding of the bold development of the artist’s creative process as each locale features new works which have not been previously exhibited.
The paintings which feature in the Zurich section of the exhibition are an evolution of a series of abstract landscapes which the artist began in 2002. Zeng has developed new techniques, using diverse brushstrokes in vibrant hues against a darker ground disrupt and traverse the surface plane in intricate expressive skeins. Previously elements such as fire, water and sky appeared in this series, yet the recent works, such as ‘Untitled’ (2017), are resolutely abstract giving an impression of an indeterminate territory reflecting the artist’s expressive plane, the scale of which envelops the viewer.
Throughout the artist’s career, the human figure has been an essential theme and Zeng describes the genre as a means of observing ‘the fundamental emotional state of humankind’. The figurative works on view in London reveal the aesthetic range of the artist as his approach has evolved, from early paintings ‘Smiling Beck-ning’ (1989) and examples from the renowned Mask Series which followed in the 1990s, to several new series of works and portraits featuring the cultural icons Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Victor Hugo created in recent years.
In Hong Kong, the presentation emerges from Zeng’s careful examination of, and reflection upon, the work of Cézanne and Zhao Gan, the 10th century Chinese artist. For Zeng the series of paintings and process of creating them are a means of undertaking acute observations on the methodology and perception of these artists. This experimental approach led the artist to explore the relationship between Zhao Gan’s ‘Early Snow on the River’ (late 10th c.) and Paul Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire series in several paintings. Further works, pencil drawings on the book covers of ancient drawing manuals, again reference traditional Chinese painting practices and the expressive potential of landscape motifs as a reflection on a state of mind. New paintings in the final section of the exhibition reveal the extent of the artist’s experiments with composition and colour, with the scope of his research expanding to cover comparisons of Oriental and Western practices.
‘Zeng Fanzhi. In the Studio’ is on view through 10 November 2018 across three Hauser & Wirth locations in Zurich, London and Hong Kong.