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The Perception of Grey Tone

Author: Zhang Qing Translator: WANG Jie and proofread by ZHANG Ping & LIU Jingjing 2011

"We are looking at the world, but it doesn't give back a glance." The decentralization of modern philosophy unveils the mist of anthropocentrism. It states that the trait of the relationship between objects and 'me' is distance. Such non-anthropocentrism breaks the isolated potential space with a new, unlimited and open scope. The empty grey zone, similar to the void in human spirit, is a real resource of freedom. Such void existing in potential pries into the emptiness of the world and the self, unveiling a real world through the void of self-existence.

In an era with fast-paced globalization, Zhang overrides those shallow social meanings and forms of aesthetics. Instead, the artist is enamoured with such grey void space. Varying from the realistic depiction of human groups to today's simple portrayal, he chooses a more accurate expression mode based on his own maturity under the erosion of time. He focuses his eyes onto the deepest level in linking social activities with system structure–ordinary life. He conjures up a real condition of his spirit and psychology. In a combination of juxtaposing oppression and liberation, a loose ambience from a primitive stage perpetually transmigrates. The absolute integrated system does not exist, rather the sub-systems from the emptiness, the fissure and vacancy. They are isolated, obstinate, damaged, repetitious, and at the same time surprisingly vigorous and instantaneously poetic.

Through an anti-aesthetic form, Zhang is courageous to stand in an opposite position from recognition and admiration. He resolutely goes to the opposition and silently depicts those daily on-site scenes that have been broken away, been thrown away, been torn apart, been tread on and been destroyed. The image reflected in his tableau is the profound reality he touches towards the world, a world which is no longer beautiful and he turns away from. What he expresses is the unknown feelings from his heart, the unknown monologue revealed through the objects he depicts. His tableau is filled with the trait of grass-root and time-being through content to form.  

The intermittent ambiguous art language forms an incoherent narrative structure, expressing the illogical and incoherent relationship between object and human. The lack of scenario plus the broken elements fuse an enigmatic attraction on Zhang's canvas, drawing the viewers to enter a world that the artist purposely forges. However when the viewers start to step into the psychological abyss of Zhang beyond his tableau, they try to shatter the solid psychological obstacle purposely set by the artist through their penetrating eyes. But then they realize that they can't be his conspirators, but his enemies in the deepest heart of the artist. They tear open the reality of Zhang's inner side. His soul and heart defend his art, opens his art and even breaks his art in a long run, as they can't quench the emergence of the opposite, broken, terrified and even criminal "grey tone". The artist hates the emergence of those perplexed and intimate elements that wafted over his canvas. When he is arranging the objects at his studio, he quenches all his joy, pain and resentment, which explains the indecisiveness in meaning and the betrayal. His artworks escape from any narrative background of the relationship between time and space. When shackling the bondage of time, he also frees his objects from causality. He refuses the intention towards the explanation from the viewers, only leaving them a disordered reality.

Zhang's paintings are not about human, while at the same time about human everywhere. Human becomes an absent existence, an uncertain ambiguity, an in-between phantom. On a site of objects, human figure hasn't come, or he comes and goes.

The void area that has been squeezed and distorted is activated by a centre of void. The possessed human is akin to the absent ghost under the pen of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It bursts into the area from time to time, and continues its odd behaviour, or it suddenly disappears in front of the silent observers, leaving a space saturated with his smell. The artist uses the site with no human to outline the absence of human, mirroring the activity of the centre of void. The viewers are enamoured with his initiative in a deep level. In order to find the truth of such void, they discuss in vain or experience different feelings of subversion.  

Zhang's paintings even exile the dimension of meaning. Different from works with clear thought or meaning, his artwork present a turbulent and unstable existence. However, the lack of meaning preserves the primitive expression power, exceeding the limits and emptiness of symbols. Under the complete void and the fixed meaning, the viewers would realize that their existence and condition of non-meaning would enable them to acquire their own freedom in pursuing the truth of reality and the pursuit towards another world.

Zhang applies thin and light colours, the ambiguous subject and the freehand brush to form those familiar yet ignored life corners one after another. Such filthy corners reveal a kind of omnipresent and obscure spirit.

Through such absence, the artist reconstructs the reality, unveiling the traditional aesthetic arrangement that finally displays the broken, separated and disintegrated nature of the spiritual core. While at the same time, he opens a void world with an unlimited enrichment.

Holding the unlimited and enriched void world is the artist's ability for perception, which enables him to encounter and collide with the natural trait of existence. It guides us into the deepest part of life, or into the deepest of the deepest, echoed with the invisible in such deepness.

Ego is not the bondage of attitude, desire or craziness, and the ways of the world are neither reflected through various perception. Rather than escaping from the subject, one's perception becomes concrete when based on the subject. And there is no depiction of the world which totally expels human figures. Human always unwittingly perceived the signals of desires, taboos and dangers. Human is no longer the subject when he escapes from the ecstatic sense of guilt. The perception of human is obtained through a series of wrong approaches. The approach towards his life, cheating and hurting would finally build up his own psychological condition.

Zhang never reconciles with this world, let alone to clarify his perception. The limits of perception force him to sort the definition of specific objects in this wild "grey tone". Only when the specific objects coincide with one's psychological target, it can function and reflect the illusion in one's psychological space. The subject and illusion together form the dual existence of perception. Under the parasitic or disgraced phantom, the different perception will continue for a boarder and general release in naiveté.  
Zhang focuses his eyes on the living environment filled with chaos, upheaval and anxiety. He perceives the 'tremble' of real objects, of imagination, of lust and of death. He starts with the ordinary objects that hide the trait of life itself. He begins with the zone of "grey tone" between object and human. Freeing himself in a void space, he perceives and solves how to discard the depiction of human to reach the core of real objects. What he is keen about is the escape from the limits of human or a more perplexed indulgence. Through self analyses, he refuses to 'exchange' human with objects, but instead strengthens the role of human in the material world. When the meaning of painting itself collides with the object or one's perception, it immediately drives an initiative that attracts and expels. The pervading of perception conceals the earnest hope and pursuit of human, easily exceeds any ignored meaning or cliché.

An artist is a perceiver instead of a person who knows. When facing the site with no human, scenario or meaning, Zhang breaks the silence and struggles in this "grey tone" for self judgement. He presents his own defense against all the misunderstandings.

He is often in self doubt. His depression and regret which haunt him are unforgettable. Opening his own inner side, he guides the viewers to a wrong direction. When they are drawn by the magic illusion through repeated perception again and again, the art of Zhang Enli is still similar to 'the castles of Kafka, flashing far away, neither to be approached nor escaped from.'

Zhang's art is lonely, radiating with a grinning smile. The displaying mode of his artworks has nothing to do with the characteristic and appearance of the exhibition space. Similar to the ordinary things that frequently be moved away or brought in inside the hall, his artworks are merely the traces of existence in this exhibition space.

"True force in diffuse, everything we see is aside." When entering the exhibition hall, the visitors could perceive the rebellious air wafted over the space. At this moment, the existing objects eternally disappear in the angle of subjectivity, akin to an immortal farewell speech. The fading realism prompts the revealing of objectivity, losing the directness and challenge. Those visitors are expecting the definition of meaning, and thus the objects on canvas are not longer transparent, but filled with accessible temperature. Similar to the ignored backdrop on canvas, the whole exhibition hall renders a failure in promise or betrayal. All the fantasies and creations thoroughly escape from the canvas. What the artist and the visitors, the object and human are inspecting and criticizing in this attractive space of "grey tone" is ego.The world, the temptation, the crime are thrown into the abyss. What can't be retrieved is the ambiguous inner side floating way from subjects and routines, and this inner side is "the centre of void".

Longfu Temple, Beijing
November 7, 2011

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