Zeng Fanzhi was born in Wuhan, China in 1964.
Zeng Fanzhi’s paintings are immediately recognisable by their signature expressionistic style. An effect that lends provocative sensations of underlying violence, psychological tension, or supernatural aura to his lavishly rendered canvases.
With subjects ranging from portraits and rural landscapes to politically charged motifs, Zeng infuses the everyday veneer of shared experience with an ambience of transgression, reflective of both the rapidly changing terrain of contemporary Chinese culture and the negotiation of personal identity within this societal flux.
Zeng’s magnificent landscapes express the vast conceptual gulf between individual cognition and the actuality of environment. Painting with two brushes simultaneously, Zeng uses one to describe his subject, while the other meanders the canvas, leaving traces of his subconscious through processes. Through this combination of painterly realism and ‘automatic’ expression, Zeng’s landscapes are transformed into near abstract fields; the depicted people and places merging both memory and imagination
Some of his latest works are inspired by the sketches of Albrecht Dürer. In a reversal of conventional East-West aesthetics, Zeng re-interprets Dürer’s intricate imagery and thin, precise brushstrokes—which resonate with traditional Chinese painting—with thick strokes of oil paint layered with a broad brush. In The Hare (2012) and Head of an Old Man (2012), the rabbit fur of the former and the flowing white beard of the latter are rendered as masses of carefully delineated, yet aggressively and broadly executed brushstrokes.
Watch Zeng Fanzhi on His Show at Gagosian Chelsea
Watch Zeng Fanzhi Short Documentary by Ringo Tang
Watch Zeng Fanzhi explains the theory and thought behind his work