Dec 28

Great Artists: Zeng Fanzhi

Zeng Fanzhi is a contemporary Chinese artist based in Beijing. Zeng established himself in the 1990s as a figure painter, best known for his representations of young Chinese city dwellers wearing masks. Zeng, born in Wuhan, China in 1964, relocated to Beijing in 1993, where he felt isolated and witnessed people around him experiencing the uncertainty of rapid change and modernization. The mask series (1994–2004) of subjects with large, vacant eyes and clumsy hands reflected this sense of alienation. Zeng later shifted focus to landscape paintings, and his overall body of work has been praised as a fusion of Eastern and Western artistic traditions. Zeng speaks of his creative process as a “subconscious response to inspiration." He followed Western art and was particularly drawn to German Expressionism and French Romanticism as a way to respond to times of societal flux, such as his own generation coming of age during the time of Mao Zedong and Communist Party rule. He had been inspired by China’s ’85 New Wave movement following the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Mao appears in Zeng's paintings in symbolic ways, including allusions to Mao's poetry and the phrase, "this land so rich in beauty." Zeng's interpretation of Mao's ode to snow shows scenes of desolation and environmental degradation (see below), in contrast to an earlier "national painting" by artists Fu Baoshi and Guan Shanyue, that depicts mountains and rivers under the glowing red sun of communism.
"This Land So Rich in Beauty No. 2" by Zeng Fanzhi, 2010
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