(Chinese, B. 1964)
signed in Chinese; signed 'Zeng Fanzhi' in Pinyin; dated '2007' (lower left)
oil on canvas
80 x 60 cm. (31 1/2 x 23 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2007

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

The thee single portraits by Zeng Fanzhi Class One SeriesGNo. 29 (Lot 432), Mask Series (Lot 428), and Untitled (Lot 437), were created respectively in 1996, 1999, and 2007. Though these works are all depicted on a blank background, they clearly show Zeng's stylistic changes in the span of a decade.
Class One Series: No. 29 (Lot 432), created in 1996, falls into the early to middle stage of the Mask series. The character depicted is placed in a constricted space, with scrunched eyes juxtaposed with blood red lips. The mask seems to be inlaid into the skin and creates a faintly bloody contour around the face. The expression on the character corresponds to the red ascot he is wearing, and hints at the links between human survival and social setting. The character is confined in an overtly small two-dimensional space; however, despite the painting's petite size, it projects a generous force of energy. Like an unruly identification photo, this portrait is a condensed portrait of this era, and moreover, it accurately reveals the humanity that is embedded under the superficial human fa?ade.
Untitled (Lot 437) created in 2007 came about more than ten years after the beginning of the Mask series. With this piece, the artist has removed the mask on the depicted character, and the person is looking at the audience with a naked gaze. However, everything in the painting is dissipating, and what he is attempting to capture is not an eternal state of existence but a temporal moment of psychological being. Despite the return to an expressive approach, the artist's portrayal here is still quite different from the expressive brushstrokes employed in his earlier works. The face of the unmasked character is shown with engorged blood vessels and veins. His hair seems to be dispersing like some foggy smoke, and his suit is also vanishing due to the diluted brushstrokes. Unveiling the mask makes us realize our insignificance, and all that remains is a glimpse of hope caught in the midst of some worrisome eyes.

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