Having achieved acclaim for his earlier figurative paintings, Zhang Enli has dedicated recent years to developing his own abstract visual language. In his latest body of work, his exploration of abstraction is anchored in figuration through descriptive titles such as ‘The Farmer’ (2020). Color and gesture convey the artist’s response to a visual experience, but are a conflation of memory and observation rather than a straightforward account of what the artist has seen. Dynamic brushstrokes are overlaid with sumptuous pops of color, indicating a new style in the artist’s painterly aesthetic.
In these works, the artist projects his own concerns and recollections onto the canvas, fusing the real and the imagined, in highly personal impressions. The washes and waves of pigment in these works, while influenced by traditional Chinese brush painting, have been transformed through tone and diaphanous marks to become Zhang Enli’s own distinctive cursive, bringing fresh perspectives to his inner emotions and memories.
Using the outside world as a mirror, Zhang Enli documents the more prosaic aspects of contemporary life. He regularly works with everyday objects that he is instinctively drawn to, for example a piece of string, a hose, or even a marble ball from the floor of his studio. Zhang Enli often magnifies his subjects until a specific fragment of a scene is depicted, as if enlarged through the viewfinder of a camera. This technique is especially present in recent abstract works such as ‘The Garden’, 2017.
© Zhang Enli. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Birdhead