signed in Chinese; signed and dated ‘2010 Zeng Fanzhi’ (lower right)
oil on canvas (triptych)
each: 280 x 180 cm. (110 1/4 x 70 7/8 in.) (3)
overall: 280 x 540 cm. (110 1/4 x 212 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2010
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the artist’s studio and signed by the artist.
Caroline Bourgeois, Palazzo Grassi, The World Belongs to You, exh. cat., Venice, Italy, 2011 (illustrated, p. 339).
Caroline Bourgeois, Martin Bethenod, Giandomenico Romanelli, Beaux Arts Editions, Palazzo Grassi, The World Belongs to You, supplement to the exhibition, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, 2011 (illustrated, p. 27).
Venice, Italy, Palazzo Grassi, The World Belongs to You, June 2011 – February 2012.

Brought to you by

Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

In the 1947-48 issue of the avant-garde journal, Possibilities, Jackson Pollock said, “When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of "get acquainted" period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well”. Zeng Fanzhi’s Grass series has a similar approach in its creative execution.

Since 2000, Zeng Fanzhi has entered into a new creative stage. A dramatic departure from the figurative and prudent style of the Hospita l series and Mask series, his creative process shifted to abstraction by painting with frenzied lines. He invented the chaotic strokes technique by using two brushes simultaneously: while one brush is constructing images, the other brush is changing what is being painted. As a result, destruction is an integral part of creation. Yet amongst the chaotic changes, the original delineation and brushstrokes are still preserved. Through the counteraction between the deliberate and the improvise brushwork, order is created out of disorder, gain is obtained through loss, diffusion occurs during coalescence. Zeng Fanzhi calls this contradictory yet harmonious creative process "the subconscious' response to inspiration".

Executed while placed horizontally on the floor, Pollock’s works emphasise on the fluidity of action painting. In contrast, Zeng Fanzhi’s lines emphasise angularity and abrupt turns, which are characteristics of Chinese calligraphy. The razor-sharpness of his lines are clear and concise, and they possess a kind of poetic rhythm that is akin to musical phrasing. When combined with the myriad layers of paint, the three-dimensionality of the brushworks are further enhanced.

Completed in 2010, Untitled is the distillation of early explorations seen in the Grass series. Presented in a panoramic view, the field of vision is majestic. Although compositionally, it is in the format of classical Western landscape painting, it employs intuitive perspective that is commonly used in Chinese landscape paintings. The network of lines on the picture plane is charged with a reckless energy that sprawls upward and outward, thus obstructing the line of sight of the viewers when they try to look into the painting. The abruptly turned and broken lines heighten the sense of tragedy exuded from the scene. Yet, such grave emotions are not without resilience and vitality. Light emanates from the dense thickets of the primordial earth. Like a rich lode of precious mineral, it glows red and green. Contrasting with the deep indigo of the night sky, these mysterious and solemn hues are infused with a sense of hope and anticipation. Obscured by the cryptic and abstract lines on the picture plane, the desire of the viewers to gaze upon the unobstructed entirety of the landscape is intensified. In this instance, the viewers become the subject of this work.

The landscape of Zeng Fanzhi is filled with the poetic feeling of solitude, yet it always contains a strong sense of life force. The painting incorporates both the concepts of "ancient tree in a frigid forest" in Chinese aesthetic and philosophical symbolism in the western Romanticism. Not restrained by any rules or ideology, he has constructed a new visual language and completed a transformation for contemporary painting. This new artistic style is his decision to revive and continue the lineage of the traditional Chinese calligraphy and ink painting by emphasizing the brushwork and conception. Using the texture and the power of expression in the oil medium, he tells a sentimental story about nature and personal emotions.

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