Born in Jilin Province, China, Zhang Enli's work is a representation of his personal relocation from a small provincial town to the fast-paced metropolis of Shanghai. Like many of his contemporaries who have lived through the political, social and historic upheavals of China's last half-century, Zhang is interested in this material transformation and how it has impacted on individual psyches. For artists like Zeng Fanzhi, this experience led to an interest in social "masks" and facades; Zhang instead turned to questions of memory, nostalgia, and quotidian experience. Instead of emphasizing artificiality, Zhang confronts the rapid development of his surroundings by calling attention to the "extraordinary of the ordinary." He chooses to interpret the contrast of the land of his youth and the realities of modern China by focusing on the banal and familiar environments one encounters on a daily basis that is often forgotten.
Perhaps the primary message Zhang seeks to convey is the slowness of time, and the ability of memory to form strong connections with what we see. In Garden (Lot 1587), the flatness of the landscape evokes a traditional Chinese painting, but the composition draws play upon our unconscious intellect, testing memory, and habitual responses to the universal interpretation.