Best known for his Masks series, Zeng Fanzhi, is one of the most internationally renowned Chinese contemporary artists today.
Watermelon (Lot 118), painted in 1996, features splayed open pieces of fruit laying against an ambiguously defined background. With only a few created in the 1990s, watermelon paintings from Zeng Fanzhi are very rare on the market. The sanguine colour and expressive brushstrokes are reminiscent of Chaim Soutine and Francis Bacon's work, which Zeng holds in high regards. Watermelon has been a recurrent iconography in Zeng's oeuvre, for example, it is richly illustrated in his record-setting monumental work Last Supper ; in this work the glowing red fruit is displayed scattered across the pristine white tablecloth as a part of the feast served to the masked Young Pioneers standing in place of the disciples. Watermelon, a fruit that is commonly communally consumed in China as summer indulgence, is often considered to symbolically carry raw potent energy; the fruit's ability to bring people together is, in turn, emblematic of the Chinese nation.
Of his paintings, Zeng once said, "they are about an experience of miao wu (marvelous revelation). Miao wu does not fall into the common categories of cognitive process. Nor has it anything to do with reason. It is a kind of revelation. Instead of making something obvious it brings about an unmarked world, which underlies the deep strata of life, both novel and familiar." Zeng Fanzhi's Watermelon , with its tour-de-force artistic rendering stripped of any narrative elements, is a miaowu in and of itself.