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Zeng Fanzhi (B. 1964)
signed in Chinese; signed 'Zeng Fanzhi' in Pinyin; dated '2004' (lower right)
oil on canvas
70 x 50 cm. (27 1/2 x 19 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2004
He Xiangning Art Museum, ShanghART Gallery, The Paintings of Zeng Fanzhi 1989-2004 Scapes, Shezhen, China, 2004 (illustrated, p. 36).

Lot Essay

Through his seminal Mask Series, Zeng Fanzhi was searching for a new visual style. In 2003, the masks disappeared and the faces were covered in spiral strokes and lines, eliminating clear facial outlines and expressions. This important transition from the Mask Series took Zeng in a new artistic direction in which he fuses the lyrical power of lines with his signature expressionistic style. In We Series (Lot 412) the features are blurred by ringlet patterns, the beginning of Zeng's experimentation towards circular brushwork. The effect is like a screen that partially shields the face, metaphorically representing the elusiveness of the real self in contemporary society, thus continuing the theme of the Mask series. The face appears stony and emotionless, while the serpentine and elongated lines swirl and spiral, creating a disorientating effect and revealing the inherent psychological tension in the human psyche.chological tension in the human psyche.
Indeed, Zeng's expressionist portraits explore the issues and feelings provoked within the psyche by contemporary life. With Boy (Lot 411) the lines are frenzied, simultaneously mutating and constructing the physiognomy of the face. The effect borders on hysteria. The boy's head is tilted, looking up towards the viewer. The red paint in the shadows of his neck and nose signifies agony or torture. The result is haunting and strange, both mesmerising and disconcerting - a duality the artist often practises to reflect the strangeness of the human condition. e strangeness of the human condition.
Zeng's two-handed brush technique helps create this duality. He uses one brush to consciously portray and construct his imagery, while the other brush follows and lingers over the canvas, leaving traces of his subconscious, giving the portraits a psychological complexity reminiscent of the existentialist artist Francis Bacon. The relationship between line and colour suffuses the canvas with three-dimensionality and a sense of spatial progression. Zeng releases the lyrical power of lines by transforming them into sentimental, subjective and expressive elements, not unlike the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock. Boy (Lot 411) and We Series (Lot 412) are direct, frank and emotionally raw portraits, reflecting modern anguish, evocative of the existential zeitgeist.

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