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31 Mar 2020

From Shanghai: Zhang Enli

Slowing down with pancakes, paper and pets

We visit Zhang Enli at home in Shanghai, where he updates us on his current situation and shares his favorite Chinese pancake recipe.

Where is home and what are your home plans?
I live in Shanghai and am staying at home just like all other locals in the city. Being inside every day has proved rather boring, but it has also given me plenty of time to sort out some old sketches, scribbles and notes. This took one month. The biggest change since being at home was the pace slowing-down. I actually have more time to organize my thoughts about future works.

Are you creating work at home?
I made some small works on paper at home, and the studio is mostly for larger works on canvas or three-dimensional works. It’s very convenient to have a small studio at home, so I don’t have to drive to the studio when I want to paint something.

Can you tell us about the pancakes you are making in the video?
These pancakes are a local delicacy in my hometown in the Northeast of China and a recipe I loved very much when I was a kid. It has simply one ingredient: flour. You first knead the dough with water (but don’t make it too hard), then roll the dough into a big flattened pastry. Sprinkle some oil on the pastry and then roll it up. Cut the roll into smaller rolls, knead them again and make them into cakes. Put a little oil in the pan and fry it until it’s cooked. The best thing about this pancake is its simple yet original taste. It goes well with anything.

Has cooking become a new hobby?
Yes! As we can’t go to restaurants, I’ve found it comfortable to cook with family at home.

Finished Pancake

Eating dinner at home: the finished pancakes. Photo: Zhang Enli

WEB 069 ZHANG83753 / ZEL_6516 Grey Parrot

Zhang Enli, Grey Parrot, 2017 © Zhang Enli

We heard you’ve recently moved to a new studio. Are you still going to studio at this time?
I am occasionally able to go to the new studio, driving myself to avoid public transportation. It takes me time to adapt, but I have become familiar with the new space and the new driving route already after just two months. 

What would be the book you would always go back for peace of mind?
I want to share with you a book entitled ‘Miguel Street’ by V.S. Naipaul.

How is your pet parrot? 
James Bond is doing very well. I chat with him every night before going to bed. Amazing little creature! 

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Zhang Enli’s works can be viewed in a special presentation currently on view at Fortnum & Mason, Hong Kong. This Autumn, Shanghai’s Power Station of Art will mount a solo exhibition of works by the artist.

From a Distance is an ongoing series of personal videos from our artists and friends. We hope that sharing messages, videos and inspiration from artists’ homes and studios can bring us all closer together as we navigate this new reality.

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