ShanghART Gallery 香格纳画廊
Home | Exhibitions | Artists | Research | Press | Shop | Space

Zhang Enli

OCAT Xian 2015

The paintings Zhang Enli made in 2006 may seem rather strange now. The subject of his compositions, which could be a corner in any museum, is a pair of asymmetric partitions. Occupying three corners of the painting, the ceiling and the floor press toward the centre like three wedges, but fail to draw our gaze to a definite point. The four light sources scattered over the partitions and the floor interfere abruptly with the natural direction of our observation. The strong light reflected by the floor, together with the bright scarlet colour, confirms the uncertainty and instability of the scene.

Among many other works dealing with space, Van Gogh (1853-1890)'s Bedroom in Arles (1888) has a similarly destabilizing quality: If we try to adopt the artist's perspective, we find that Van Gogh was trying to create a focus of perspective, which he constantly disturbed, interfered with and disrupted. The objects scattering across the room all appear to float free of gravity and on the verge of breaking up the picture. Conversely, the three blue walls press in towards the centre of the painting oppressively.

These two paintings showed the unique measure of an artist dealing with space, perspective and objects while expressing their inner world. Several years later, the tension and restlessness in Zhang Enli's works disappeared. Destroyed Room (2011), White Ceramic Tile (2012) and Storeroom (2012), all seem to have a magical power to direct the viewer's gaze towards the centre gently and peacefully like a requiem in a funeral. Representing old tiles, an empty storeroom or a deserted room, these three paintings share a similar composition: objects on the sides gently inclining to an empty wall, which attracts our attention in the way of a tracking shot or of time fading into the image space. The objects on the sides - messy wires, a sink and tubing pipes - direct and enrich the motion of our visual encounter.
During such experiments, Zhang Enli built up an inner connection between the canvas and the physical space, which could be sensed by gazing at the painting. The psychological atmosphere aroused by this connection is deep like a path plunging into a lush wood in the realistic paintings of Russian artists Isac Levitan (1860-1900) and Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898). Such connection cannot be found in an ordinary space, for the changing perspective prevents us from having an immersive experience of the room. Since 2010, in his practice of "space painting", or painting in a space, Zhang Enli has resolved this problem.
In the 2011 Kwangju Art Biennial, Zhang Enli was faced with the physical space of an old bathroom. With colours used to create an aged effect, he antiquated the space by painting water stains and iron rust on the walls and the floor, complete with fake objects like power adapters and water pipes. For better effect, Zhang Enli not only kept the artificial lighting in the room, but also painted two barely perceptible beams of light symmetrically on the wall. Looking closely, every part of the work could be regarded as an individual artwork in its own right. In works such as Drainpipe (2011), Two Bulbs (2012) and Hanging Wire (2012), common articles were pepicted using a harmony of lines and patches of colour. In the "space paintings' physical spaces were divided into flat paintings, the whole reunited by the tones used as well as the subjects of those paintings.

At the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, Zhang Enli was given a bigger space to work on. This is the time when he was fully devoted to the flatness he had been experimenting with before. Dispensing with actual objects, he painted the whole space freely with colour and lines. Although the colour and lines in the painting were not identical in every detail, they occupied the whole space in a homogenized way Thanks to the artist's great control of it, colour successfully covered or faked nearly everything in the space. No matter where one stood, as long as focus was maintained, this giant piece of painting was enjoyed as a cohesive whole — the dark part represented the irregular steps and partitions; the edges of the structure subtly strengthened the depth of the "flat*1 painting. With his control of the flatness, Zhang Enli managed to build up painting's connection with space and objects. It had a power to bring the viewers into the space, feeling that they could communicate with the objects inside.

Related Artists:


© Copyright ShanghART Gallery 1996-2024

沪公网安备 31010402001234号