Born in Beijing in 1952, Zhang Wei is considered one of the most important figures in the development of postmodern abstract art in China.Read More
Together with the No Name Group, a self-organised underground collective of young painters that he belonged to between 1973 and 1979, Zhang Wei rebelled against the restrictions on creative expression that were imposed by Mao Zedong's Communist regime, seeking a freer outlet for his artistic talents than still lifes and land- and cityscapes. Zhang Wei later left the group and formed a small collective with Zhu Jinshi and Zhao Gang, where he began to experiment with the abstract painting style he would become known for.
When he first encountered Abstract Expressionism and some of its key protagonists, such as Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg, in the early 1980s, it offered Zhang Wei a new perspective and inspired him to dedicate his practice to a non-representational form. Today, Zhang Wei lives and works in Beijing, where he creates both abstract artworks and traditional landscape paintings, influenced by an understanding of the ancient Chinese philosophy of simple living.
Using mineral paints and watercolour on canvas and paper, Zhang Wei's expressive artworks trick the eye into seeing shadows and depth where there are none, layering large, obvious brushstrokes atop one another in a manner that sometimes mimics familiar forms. He describes his style as wu xing, a spontaneous and enlightened mode of creativity inspired by ancient Chinese philosophy that aligns in vocabulary and approach with Action Painting. Many of his paintings contain several layers of references, from the influence of Pollock's famous drip technique to a traditional Chinese awareness of space or emptiness, as can be seen in works like EXPE3 (1981), a muted oil on rice paper composition that also includes calligraphy.
Early signs of Zhang Wei's shift towards abstractionism are apparent in BE1 (1977), a small oil painting on paper. As with most of his abstract works, Zhang Wei works with a limited palette, employing only three or four colours and broad, decisive brushstrokes to create a predominantly blue and ochre composition that is imbued with an expressive spontaneity. Sometimes — as is the case with BE1 and later artworks like Z-AC1732 (2017), a cobalt blue and slate composition interrupted by a flash of hot pink — the vast canvas is occupied by just two or three large brushstrokes, aided by nothing more than a few accidental splashes of paint.
Zhang Wei's work has been featured in both solo and group exhibitions.
Solo exhibitions include: Zhang Wei, Galerie Max Hetzler, Paris, France (2021); Zhang Wei: Faith No More, Beijing Art Now Gallery, Beijing, China (2019); Zhang Wei, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, Austria (2019); and Zhang Wei: Taxi Driver, The Space of DRC No.12, Beijing, China (2016).
Group exhibitions include: Foreign Affairs, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, Austria (2022); Focus China: Works from the Wemhöner Collection, Mönchehasu Museum Goslar, Goslar, Germany (2021); and Sunset On A Dead End: The Notorious and Their Inexplicable Modes Of Existence, Power Station of Art, Huangpu, Shanghai, China (2019).
Articles mentioning Zhang Wei's work have been published in various publications, including CoBo Social for an article by Hans Werner Holzwarth and an interview by Selina Ting and Kirsten Wang. Publications about the artist include Zhang Wei, Boers-Li Gallery, Galerie Max Hetzler, and Holzwarth Publications (2019); Zhang Wei: Artist Book, H2P I Hetzler Holzwarth Publications (2017); and Zhang Wei: The Abstract Paintings 1977 — Now, Boers-Li Gallery (2013).
Fay Janet Jackson | Ocula | 2022