The treatment and use of lines is the important characteristic of Zeng Fanzhi’s chaotic strokes. “In these paintings, the darting lines have detached from the simple function of delineation. They have become the subject of the painting expression itself.” (Wu Hong, 2010 Zeng Fanzhi, 2010) In Chinese ink painting, not only are lines the fundamental element in the picture, they are traces of emotional expression. His use of line has integrated the cadence of the Chinese cursive script. It also possesses the formal logic of action painting and Abstract Expressionism. His lines are full of exquisitely wild agility, but they also embody an air of haughty rationality.
The tension in the lines makes the two-dimensional plane appears to be multi-layered. The depth and expanse of the picture are stretched to infinity. In Spring; & Summer (Lot 28) and Autumn; & Winter (Lot 29), Zeng Fanzhi invented (applied) the chaotic strokes technique by using two brushes simultaneously: while one brush is constructing (to construct) images, the other brush is changing (to change) 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 (improvisatory) brushworks, 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”.
His works Spring; & Summer and Autumn; & Winter echo and pair with each other in a presentation of vertical screen in Chinese traditional painting. While the blank space in the sky leaves room for artist’s emotional expression and darting lines in foreground generate high tension, this seeming contradiction fills up a well-balanced composition. Whether in the early spring, mid-summer, late autumn or chilly early winter, Zeng Fanzhi wields his brushes so incisively and vividly on the long and narrow canvases that the viewer shall apprehend the passing of the Sun and the Moon in the wilderness and the change of four seasons.
The landscape of Zeng Fanzhi (in Zeng Fanzhi’s works) 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.