Zeng Fanzhi - Contemporary Art London Thursday, June 21, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist.

  • Literature

    L. Pi, ed., Zeng Fanzhi 1993-1998, Beijing, 1998, p. 11 (ill.); L. Pi and L. He, eds., I/We: The Painting oF Zeng Fanzhi 1991-2003, Beijing, 2003, p. 133 (ill).

  • Catalogue Essay

    Zeng Fanzhi’s creativity and innovation remains unsurpassed among his peers. He is celebrated for multiple series of works, each of which engage in a distinct creative leap —a commendable effort within a market that leans towards pigeonholing artists with a single signature style. Like many of his peers, Zeng leans towards figuration; however, Zeng sets himself apart from the pack with his extraordinary attention to, and skill with, the gestural qualities of painting.

    Zeng was born in Wuhan in 1964, graduated from the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts in 1991, and moved to Beijing two years later. He shares similar concerns with his fellow artists about social and psychological issues wrought by China’s dramatic modernization. More so than any of his peers, however, his exquisite technique depicts the psychological makeup of each subject with great subtlety and complexity. In the highly successful Mask series that began in 1993, his subjects don white masks that serve as both defensive camouflage and social persona. These masks meld and almost merge into their wearers’ unseen faces, indicating the intensity of the everyday masquerade needed to function in contemporary society.

    Executed immediately prior to the Mask series, Zeng’s Hospital series is his first mature and critically acclaimed series. The artist grew up near the Xiehe Hospital in Wuhan and was struck by the human suffering that he witnessed on his daily walk past the hospital compound. He began to paint these characters obsessively, depicting not only their physical wounds but the atmosphere of cruelty that he perceived in this urban setting. The hospital became a microcosm for the self-absorbed, dog-eat-dog interpersonal relationships that Zeng perceived in society at large. In the waiting room depicted in present lot, the man on the left insouciantly regards the copiously weeping patient who shares his couch; behind them are glassy-eyed crowds of patients. The rich, disturbing hues of the painting, combined with the total lack of communication between its subjects, intensifies augments the work’s intensely corporeal texture: the human pain and anguish is all too colorful; the silence that surrounds it, deafening.

    Of the Hospital series, the éminence grise of contemporary Chinese art, Li Xianting, says: “In describing the relationship between doctor and patient, he makes allusion to the masochism and sado-masochism that exists in pockets of life… This pessimism is found not only in the implied masochistic and sado-masochistic relation between doctor and patients, but in the violence of the expressionistic brush strokes and the cold, deathly mood of the colour… There is a pervading sense that these figures are caught up in a fit of hysteria. Aside from all this, the allusion to fresh meat suggests a venting of frustration and anger: the act of venting, of itself, removes - kills off - the frustration.” (X. Li, “Life Behind the Mask,” L. Pi, ed., Zeng Fanzhi 1993-1998, Beijing, 1998, pp. 6-7).


Hospital Series

Oil on canvas.
70 1/2 x 78 1/2 in. (179.1 x 199.4 cm).
Signed and dated "Zeng Fanzhi [in Chinese and English] 94" lower right.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £860,000

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm