Zhang Enli is the first Chinese artist-in-residence to take part in the RA Schools residency programme in collaboration with K11 Art Foundation. From familiar everyday objects in his immediate surroundings, to municipal structures in the streets of Shanghai, Zhang Enli’s works offer new viewpoints on unusual details. His installations often involve fluid, painterly walls, floors and ceilings, which both fully immerse the viewer while emphasising a sense of emptiness.
Normally hidden from public view, the Life Room was designed in the 1860s, with a semi-circular seating arrangement based on an ancient design, and directional lights used to aid life drawing. The room is still a working space used for talks, lectures and projects by current artists studying at the RA Schools.
During Zhang Enli’s month-long residency at the Royal Academy of Arts, he has made a series of new paintings and a site-specific installation, responding to the Life Room’s unique history and the artist’s personal history. Zhang was drawn to the space’s historic sculpture casts and 18th-century semi-circular benches as much as the natural light flooding in from the north. ‘I have always been curious about making works in a formal art school setting,’ he says, ‘and the fixtures of the room create an ambience that attracts me. The fact that it is a drawing room also means that it makes sense to share my process of creation here.’
This partnership between RA Schools and K11 Art Foundation (KAF) allows an exchange of artistic practice between Chinese contemporary artists and RA Schools graduates, who have the chance to take up residency in China at one of the KAF artist villages. It highlights the diversity and dynamism of Chinese contemporary art, giving visiting artists an opportunity to engage with new, international audiences.