ZENG FANZHI (CHINA, B. 1964)
This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When au… Read more
ZENG FANZHI (CHINA, B. 1964)

Untitled (Mask Series)

Details
ZENG FANZHI (CHINA, B. 1964)
Untitled (Mask Series)
signed and dated ‘Zeng Fanzhi 1999’ (lower right)
coloured pencil on paper
11 x 14.5 cm. (4 3/8 x 5 3/4 in.)
Drawn in 1999
Provenance
Private Collection, Asia
Special notice

This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When auctioned, such property will remain under “bond” with the applicable import customs duties and taxes being deferred unless and until the property is brought into free circulation in the PRC. Prospective buyers are reminded that after paying for such lots in full and cleared funds, if they wish to import the lots into the PRC, they will be responsible for and will have to pay the applicable import customs duties and taxes. The rates of import customs duty and tax are based on the value of the goods and the relevant customs regulations and classifications in force at the time of import.

Lot Essay

Zeng Fanzhi left his hometown for Beijing in the early 1990s. At that time the economy was booming, and the sense of distance and indifference in the capital city and the other changes in his environment impacted Zeng emotionally. The result of expressing these feelings on canvas was his Mask series. Beginning in 1994, the artist's work revolved around the 'mask' theme in paintings that also explored different types of composition, depiction of forms, and mediums.

Dating from 1999, this Untitled (Mask Series) work continues using the brilliant colours that characterize earlier works from the same series (fig. 1), while the use of watercolour pencils gives the work a unique and unaffected sincerity. In producing Untitled, Zeng chose not to use water for mixing or blending with his coloured pencils, but instead retained the unique chalky quality of their lines and strokes. This seemingly unsophisticated simplicity continues in Zeng's handling of the background with parallel hatch marks cannot cover a surface like oils; applied lightly, they produce sketchy lines, while in heavier applications they take on more of the density and strength of oils, and only repeated applications produce the sense of layering and rich colour seen here.

The couple in the painting lean affectionately against each other, sporting the clothing and hair styles typical of the period, against gorgeous background colours that signify a happy occasion. All these contrast sharply with the cold and somewhat sinister expressions of the masks they wear, even as their glassy 'button' eyes, the pale whiteness of the masks, and the exaggerated redness of their lips suggest a degree of unwillingness. The masks are a symbol of avoidance, eradicating all the details of their wearer's individuality while true expressions are hidden beneath. These two figures, arranged stiffly in idealized poses in a Utopian scene, speak metaphorically of the increasing falseness and pretentiousness in our interpersonal relations, even as the material circumstances of real life become ever richer, and suggest also the way in which the coldness and distance of our modern lives makes it difficult to come together and be recognized at the personal, emotional level.

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