Oil on canvas
100 x 80 cm / 39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in

In a career spanning more than three decades, Zeng has repeatedly challenged convention to evolve his art, resulting in artistic breakthroughs, diverse painting styles, and an extremely rich oeuvre. The artist situates himself at the juncture of Eastern and Western artistic traditions as well as at the intersection of ancient and contemporary times, where he reflects on the similarities and differences between these traditions and eras. He constantly seeks to shed light on new possibilities within painting using these references. Zeng’s work transcends a simple representation of the physical world; rather, it expresses with virtuosity the entire palette of human emotions, ensuring its enduring impact on his audience. 

In the creation of ’Untitled’, the artist used painting to fully present his observations. He first began by tackling the individual aspects, studying separately the methods employed by both Cézanne and Zhao Gan, before deriving various forms of painting that combined the two. The subject of ’Untitled’ is a narrow collection of trees, captured in powerfully vibrant shades of turquoise, pink, terracotta and green. Rendered in a gentle hand, the sky and land unfurl across the canvas only enough to situate the trees: the four corners remain untouched. Calling to mind the fragmentary and meditative misty landscape paintings of the Song Dynasty, ‘Untitled’ harkens back to a deeply contemplative period in Chinese art.

‘Over time, I began to realize that traditional things have their own beauty. Perhaps it also has to do with my age. When you reach a certain age, you naturally begin to turn to a spirit of introspection’. [1] The quieter tenor of ‘Untitled’ and its related body of works herald a new period of pensive and sincere reflection on the past. Zeng takes on this deeply traditional material with the confidence and fluency of a master at the peak of his practice.   

[1] Zeng Fanzhi quoted in Amy Qin, ‘Artist Zeng Fanzhi on the Evolution of His Work and China’s Art Market’, New York Times, 22 September 2016, n.p.

Zeng Fanzhi

Zeng Fanzhi was born in Wuhan, China in 1964 and graduated from the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in Wuhan in 1991. One of the most celebrated artists working today, Zeng is lauded across the globe for his technical mastery and ability to conjure emotion from his subject matter. Over the past two decades, Zeng has reacquainted himself with traditional Chinese ink painting, and art particularly from the Northern Wei to Song and Yuan Dynasties from the fourth to fifteenth centuries. Informed by these new interests, Zeng has moved further into abstraction, creating highly gestural landscapes that share the same dynamic energy of his portraiture.