Zhang Enli began his artistic career in the early 1990s. Born in 1965 in Jilin, China, he graduated from the Arts & Design Institute of Wuxi Technical University in 1989 and relocated to Shanghai where he was a teacher at the Arts & Design Institute of Donghua University until 2008. Zhang Enli's paintings are distinct from his Chinese contemporaries. His works bear no relations to 'Political Pop', 'Kitsch Art' or 'Cynical Realism' prevalent amongst the artistic community during the 1990s. Instead, his artistic focus is in the void – the presence of absence and the everyday mundane.
His paintings of forgotten people, spaces and objects elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary with his expressive lines and curves. His practice is grounded in melancholic portrayals of these ordinary objects or places from everyday life, through painting, sculpture or installation such as Space Paintings Series, in which he paints directly onto the walls, ceilings and floors of a room. He takes visual material from whatever is close at hand in his studio, like buckets, a hose, or marble ball. Zhang's paintings are rarely produced from direct observation, but from sketches, photographs or from his memories. Zhang quietly reflects on the void that surrounds these spaces and objects. Indeed, the artist holds a certain fascination for the void, which is an important theme throughout the artist’s oeuvre. In The Partial, Zhang applies thinly layered earth-toned colors with freehand brush to form horizontal and vertical lines. The paint moves swiftly and fluidly, brush strokes and drips remain visible, Zhang’s application of paint is extraordinarily thin that produces translucent lines. Although The Partial is painted with oil on canvas, but his technique is similar to traditional Chinese brush painting that uses ink or watercolour. Here, each brushstroke and each line is a specific and unique gesture that holds its own space in the overall composition. The function of the lines or brushstrokes in this composition is not to create a narrative or give shape to any particular object, but to show us the presence of the void. As if the artist is giving shape to the unseen. Here, space in itself is not noteworthy, but it is how they are painted that matters. The artwork does not have any specific narrative background, and bares no relations to time. It also escapes from any permanent meaning, but this lack of meaning creates a canvas that is powerfully expressive, going beyond the limits of narrative and symbols. Consequently, The Partial is at the height of what the artist once said: ‘I deal with reality in order to express something that goes beyond reality’ (Monica Dematte, quoted in ‘Human, Too Human’ in ShanghART, 2004).
As Zhang progresses as an artist, his focus went from expressionistic and raw figurative canvases, to the unusual perspectives and the everyday forgotten objects. In recent years, Zhang Enli is exploring different artistic medium like his installation piece such as Space Paintings Series. Here, with the The Partial, Zhang seems to be moving towards another kind of artistic expression by exploring the potential of linear lines and the void. What distinguishes the The Partial from Zhang’s earlier works of ghostly renderings of buckets and light switches is the overall abstraction. The palette used here is subtle, recalling the earthy tones of Modernist painting. Therefore, the present lot is a unique painting denoting Zhang’s creativity and his artistic vision.