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A Short Text about Zhang Enli

Author: Gregor Muir 2006

I deal with reality in order to express something that goes beyond reality – Zhang Enli

Born in 1965, Zhang Enli lives and works in Shanghai. His paintings depict the familiar and overlooked, everyday objects connected through the artist's immediate surroundings. He produces works that invite universal interpretation. He often works in series, such as his paintings that focus on the idea of the container – cardboard boxes, ashtrays, tin chests and lavatories. Other works depict functional municipal structures that populate the streets of Shanghai – public toilets and tiled outdoor water features. Several paintings, including a series of watercolours, show the back of balding heads and the wild, outgrown haircuts of anonymous city dwellers. Throughout the work, one can sense the artist's presence as he quietly observes a fragile reality.

For another of his series, Zhang Enli has produced a number of tree paintings, views looking upward at the leafy streets close to his studio. The artist's 'grided up' style of painting - a technique used to enlarge photographs - is purposely left visible, recalling a more traditional style of image reproduction. Zhang Enli's application of paint also evokes traditional Chinese brush painting, while the tree paintings point to the proliferation of imported varieties to be found in Shanghai's former French Concession. From Zhang Enli's subtle observations of the contemporary urban environment emerges a sense of a neglected past and a timeless quality that transcends any rootedness in the present.

In 2006, Zhang Enli's work will feature in the exhibition 'Infinite Painting and Global Realism', curated by Francesco Bonami and Sarah Cosulich Canarutto, at Villa Manin Centro d'Arte Contemporanea, Udine. In 2005, his work was included in 'Dreaming of the Dragon's Nation. Contemporary Art from China', at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. He has exhibited extensively in China, where recent solo exhibitions have included 'Dancing' at ShanghArt, Shanghai (2000) and 'Human, Too Human' at BizArt, Shanghai (2004). Zhang Enli (b. Jilin, Japan 1965) has lived and worked in Shanghai since graduating from the Arts & Design Institute of Wuxi Technical University in 1989.

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