With the ZHANG WEI exhibition the Galerie Krinzinger is showing one of the pioneers of Chinese abstract painting for the first time.
The beginnings of contemporary art in China date back to the death of Mao Zedong at the end of the 1970s. In the period following the Cultural Revolution a number of young artists felt the desire to develop their artistic impulses in an unrestrained way. At this time Zhang Wei was in his early twenties. Young artists grouped together in collectives, such as the “No Name Group”, which Zhang Wei became a part of. A self-taught artist, Wei searched for his very own style while he studied Western art movements, particularly abstract expressionism. In the early 1980s he was one of the pioneers of abstract painting in China but at the same time he never turned his back on traditional Chinese teachings. His art drew on techniques of Chinese ink painting and the philosophy of “qi”, according to which special energies become set free in the painting process as soon as the brush touches the sheet.
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The exhibition at the Galerie Krinzinger features two different series of the artist’s work. One series comprises early works from the period between 1970 and 1980, while the second one presents more recent works by Zhang Wei.
The small, older pieces, usually urban or rural vistas of his hometown and the surroundings of Beijing, show impressionist features. These works include “Mountain in the Sun” (1973) und “Beijing Zoo 2” (1977) – paintings that were created outdoors. The juxtaposition of these pieces with later works nicely illustrates the direction in which his painting has developed. In the more recent expressive paintings the use of strong oil paints stands out. The artist usually combines only a few, usually just two to three colors, in a painting. These works, showing parallels to action painting or Art Informel, are imbued with an expressive spontaneity. It seems as if Zhang Wei employs a couple of strong brushstrokes to quickly produce his paintings. Often he adds drops to a piece to further underscore the impression of spontaneity – a technique that is ascribed to ink painting.
The artist actually contradicts this impression when he reveals that his works gain in complexity with every additional bit of abstraction in the painting process. By way of abstract art he is able to express a wealth of content and emotion and for Zhang Wei it is, first and foremost, a manifestation of liberty. But apart from this his paintings are meant to convey to the viewer that abstraction is omnipresent in our life. To quote Zhang Wei: “every good expression has abstract meaning and feelings.”
Zhang Wei was born in 1952 and lives and works in in Beijing. From 1986 to 2005 he lived in New York. His most important exhibitions include: Salon Salon: Fine Art Practices from 1972 to 1982 in Profile – A Beijing Perspective, Inside-Out Art Museum, Beijing (2017); Secret Signs: Calligraphy in Chinese Contemporary Art, DeichtorHallen, Hamburg, Germany; Right is Wrong / Four Decades of Chinese Art from the M+ Sigg Collection, Bildmuseet Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden (2014); Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974- 1985, China Institute Gallery, New York, USA (2011). His works are included in the collection of the Chicago Art Institute, the M+ Museum and a number of private collections.courtesy Galerie Krinzinger and the artist / photo Tamara Rametsteiner