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b. 1955, China

Zhang JianJun Biography

Zhang JianJun, an innovator of contemporary Chinese art, produces paintings, sculptures, performances, and installations that dwell on humanity's existence, transformation, and spirituality.

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Zhang JianJun was trained in the fine art department of Shanghai Theatre Academy in the 1970s, majoring in oil painting. His early practice was inspired by the post-Cultural Revolution access he had to Western styles, including classical painting, Impressionism, and Fauvism, through his professor.

In 1979, after a transformative visit to the Dunhuang Grottoes, Zhang JianJun became less interested in Western frameworks and delved into a more Eastern approach and developed a radical aesthetic informed by Buddhism and Daoism as well as calligraphy, seal-carving, and Yinxu culture.

Zhang JianJun's monochrome paintings, which incorporated materials such as stones, pottery fragments, wood, and sand, related to the movement of Rationalistic painting. Rationalistic painting, related to Yi Pai, looked to Chinese ink painting traditions and used its conventional shapes—lines, squares, dots, and circles—to express the relationship between the material and the universe, time, and space.

During this early period including work such as the 'Noumenon (Existence)' series (1983–ongoing, Zhang JianJun refuted any textual explanation of his works, in observance of an Eastern philosophy of interpretation. The inclusion of his abstract paintings in the '83 Experimental Painting exhibition at Fudan University, Shanghai, affirmed his renown in China, even though it was closed down after half a day.

In tandem with his studio practice, between 1986 and 1989 Zhang JianJun was the first assistant director and head of the Art Research Department of the Shanghai Art Museum, during which time he received a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council to spent time in the United States.

Zhang JianJun's eventual move to the United States enabled by a grant from Asian Cultural Council in 1989 encouraged his practice to expand and include installation and performance art. Works like Scholar Rock (The Mirage Garden) (2008), are concerned with cultural relations, in particular how traditional Chinese culture interacted with the contemporary world during rapid urbanisation.

Zhang JianJun's ink drawings have remained the backbone of his practice, which continues alongside his teaching at New York University's Shanghai campus. Selected group shows include Arts of China: New Acquisitions, Asian Galleries, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2019); Ink Worlds: Contemporary Chinese Painting from the Collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Stanford (2018); Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2013); Portrait of the Times, Power Station of Art, Shanghai (2013); Shanshui, Kunstmuseum Luzern (2011); The Great Celestial Abstraction, National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2010); and A Grain of Dust, A Drop of Water, Gwangju Biennale (2004).

Biography by Cleo Roberts | Ocula | 2020

Zhang JianJun Featured Artworks

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Rubbing Rain Series by Zhang JianJun contemporary artwork
Zhang JianJunRubbing Rain Series, 2015–2020Chinese ink, acrylic, printing ink and rice paper on paper
35 x 30 x 0.8 cm
Alisan Fine Arts Enquire about this work
Rubbing Rain Series by Zhang JianJun contemporary artwork
Zhang JianJunRubbing Rain Series, 2015–2020Acrylic and printing ink on paper
35.5 x 30 cm
Alisan Fine Arts Enquire about this work
Ink Rock Series by Zhang JianJun contemporary artwork
Zhang JianJunInk Rock Series, 2019Chinese ink
102 x 56 x 39 cm
Alisan Fine Arts Enquire about this work
China Chapter #12–6 by Zhang JianJun contemporary artwork
Zhang JianJunChina Chapter #12–6Silicone rubber
38 x 30 x 30 cm
Galerie Albrecht Enquire about this work
Flowing Water (Series) by Zhang JianJun contemporary artwork
Zhang JianJunFlowing Water (Series), 2015Chinese ink, oil paint, acrylic, rice on paper on canvas
100 x 80 cm
Leo Gallery Enquire about this work
First Drop of Water Series No. 8 by Zhang JianJun contemporary artwork
Zhang JianJunFirst Drop of Water Series No. 8, 2015Chinese ink, oil paint, acrylic, rice paper
185 x 140 cm
Pearl Lam Galleries Enquire about this work
First Drop of Water #29 by Zhang JianJun contemporary artwork
Zhang JianJunFirst Drop of Water #29, 2015Chinese ink, oil, and acrylic on rice paper
185 x 140 cm
Pearl Lam Galleries Enquire about this work
First Drop of Water No. 25 by Zhang JianJun contemporary artwork
Zhang JianJunFirst Drop of Water No. 25, 2015Chinese ink, oil, and acrylic on rice paper
177 x 94 cm
Pearl Lam Galleries Enquire about this work

Zhang JianJun Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Zhang JianJun & Barbara Edelstein, Ineffable Garden at Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
Closed
16 March–2 June 2020 Zhang JianJun & Barbara Edelstein Ineffable Garden Alisan Fine Arts, Central, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group exhibition, Scripts, Traces, and the Unpredictable 未来脚本 at Pearl Lam Galleries, Shanghai
Closed
15 January–15 March 2019 Group exhibition Scripts, Traces, and the Unpredictable 未来脚本 Pearl Lam Galleries, Shanghai

Zhang JianJun Represented By

Zhang JianJun In Related Press

SCRIPTS, TRACES, AND THE UNPREDICTABLE Related Press SCRIPTS, TRACES, AND THE UNPREDICTABLE 1 March 2019, Art Asia Pacific

Alone on an islet of sand, cut off by the incoming tide, a small girl looks out to sea, her back to the viewer. This photograph by Tang Nannan, Unknown Beach No. 40 (2017), evokes the Chinese idiom wàngyáng xīngtàn. Literally meaning 'to sigh as one watches the ocean,' the phrase suggests that all ambitions and achievements are brought down to...

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Zhang Jian-Jun wonders about water at Pearl Lam Galleries Related Press Zhang Jian-Jun wonders about water at Pearl Lam Galleries 19 March 2016, Blouin Artinfo

Pearl Lam Galleries brings together 30 years of musings on moisture from Shanghai artist Zhang Jian-Jun in the new exhibition Water • Quintessence. His first solo show in his hometown for 30 years to feature current work, the exhibition includes works in oil and ink alongside mixed-media pieces, sculptures, and items from the...

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