For his first exhibition in the Paris gallery and second with Galerie Max Hetzler, Zhang Wei, one of the leading figures of Chinese abstract art, has selected twelve oil paintings and two watercolours, made between 2016 and 2020. These recent works reveal the ongoing influence of Action Painting, which he discovered around 1980, marking a change of direction in his practice and prompting him to break with figuration for good.
Here, Zhang Wei confronts the viewer with canvases, on a monumental scale. Made with bright and contrasting colours, his brushstrokes cause an intense emotion, adding a physical consciousness to the work. On this, C.S. Chinnery observes, “there is a violent energy in numerous recent paintings by Zhang Wei, but it is not the central element. Rather, it serves as the intermediary to essential energy. Despite the impetuous contrast of colours and textures, what truly defines Zhang Wei’s work is a sense of balance”*.
The same emotion can be found in three paintings of a more modest size and softer tonality. Comprising touches of blue, white and pink, they seem to depict petals floating in the water, offering a rest for the eye and questioning a possible return to figuration. Finally, two watercolours of seafoam green are also on view. They are made with a distinct line of Celadon colour that is poured onto the surface, morphing into diaphanous shapes evocative of the attempt to take a deep breath – at once fragile and penetrating; they remind us of the importance of the “Qi” spirituality in the artist’s work.
Zhang Wei was born in 1952 in Beijing where he lives and works. At the end of the 1970s, he worked for the Northern Kun Opera Theatre in Beijing. From 1986 to 2005 he lived in the United States. His work has been exhibited in international institutions and most recently at Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing (2020); Song Art Museum, Beijing (2020); the M + Sigg Collection, Hong Kong (2016); Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing (2015); Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2014); Asia Society, Hong Kong (2013); China Institute Gallery, New York (2011); Yuan Art Museum, Beijing (2010) and CaixaForum, Barcelona (2008).
His work can also be found in the public collections of M + Museum of Visual Culture, Sigg Collection, Hong Kong and the Art Institute of Chicago.
*C. S. Chinnery, ‘A colourful dissonance: On the paintings of Zhang Wei’, in Zhang Wei, exh. cat., Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler and Holzwarth Publications, 2017, p. 29
Copyright © Nicolas Brasseur / Courtesy Zhang Wei and Galerie Max Hetzler