Zeng Fanzhi - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • “Lines are rarely featured in Western oil painting. Instead, a picture is mainly comprised of planes, colours, light and shadows. In Chinese paintings, subjects are often outlined in ink with the calligraphy brush. I have always wanted to look for a language that is uniquely my own. I think I might have found a small pathway.”
    —    Zeng Fanzhi


    Brimming with vivacious vines and suffused with an ominous glow, Landscape is a significant masterpiece by the formidable Chinese contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi. Phillips is pleased to be offering the present work as it hails from an important series of abstract landscapes which the artist began exploring in the early 2000s. Over the course of the past two decades, these scenic themes have become one of Zeng’s most profound and widely received series and to this day, the artist continues to impress viewers with his ever-evolving style by producing an enthralling and compelling body of works.


    The turn of the millennium marked a major turning point for Zeng, as he diverged from his celebrated Meat and Mask series into the realm of landscape painting – engendering a novel vernacular and body of works that initially hovered between figuration and abstraction, then subsequently turned into pure abstraction. In 2016, the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing presented Zeng Fanzhi – Parcours, a comprehensive and large-scale retrospective of Zeng’s creative output – tracing his key developments from his early Hospital series, to the Mask series of the 1990s, up until finally, his Landscape series of the 2000s.


    Within the present work, viewers bear witness to the artist’s unique Expressionist style, comprised of a flurry of shapes, lines, and dynamic movement. Executed in 2005, Landscape stands as a mature work of this notable series and at the time, Zeng was working in his previous studio where his most robust landscapes were produced. This series demonstrates Zeng’s masterful ability in marrying both Eastern and Western cultural influences. It further reveals an introspective shift as well as his return in examining his own cultural roots by combining elements of Western Abstract Expressionism with traditional Chinese art practices such as calligraphy and literati paintings.


    The present work invites viewers to inspect it within close proximity in order to feel the vast expanse of its barren landscape. Juxtaposed against a thick wash of cobalt blue amongst an imminent cloud burst, the complex network of entwined branches possesses a life of their own – depicting Zeng’s confidence in his own intuition and technique. As one stands in front of Landscape, they are able to sense the velocity of the artist’s hand moving at rapid speed, whilst retaining the expression of the luanbi xiantao (loose brushstrokes) used in traditional Chinese shanshui hua (landscape painting). Zeng’s creative execution recalls Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock’s artistic process. Paying close attention to the study of line, Zeng’s brushstrokes in Landscape evoke a similar vivacity to Pollock’s drips and splashes.


    “When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of "get acquainted" period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”
    —    Jackson Pollock


    The composition leaves viewers wondering what this might be a depiction of. In fact, these landscapes are not based on any particular location – they can be understood as experiments of miao wu: a marvelous revelation. Zeng states, “miao wu is not a cognitive process. On the contrary, it is kind of an epiphany: a glimpse of enlightenment. Miao wu is not simply the revelation of something essential. Rather, it harks to an unknown world, original but familiar, concealed in the depths of life. In this sense, the revelation of miao wu exposes something that already existed within art, life, and the self… miao wu is a never-ending journey of spiritual exploration.” i

    Through every brushstroke, Zeng taps into his subconsciousness – treating it almost as a meditative act, which allows him to be at one with nature. It is only when one observes the artist’s landscapes with stillness will they sense a balance between its psychological tension and etherealness. Landscape is of impressive size, colour, and composition, which makes the present work an exciting spectacle to appear on the market.


    i Mike Kelly, ‘An Interview with Zeng Fanzhi’, Aquavella Gallery, 2009, p. 3

    • Provenance

      ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005

Property from an Important European Collection



signed and dated 'Zeng Fanzhi [in Chinese and Pinyin] 2005' lower right
oil on canvas
145 x 223 cm. (57 1/8 x 87 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2005.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

Sold for HK$2,540,000

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Head of Day Sale, Associate Specialist
+852 2318 2014

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 7 October 2023