Beijing-based Chinese artist Zhang Xuerui predominantly works in abstract colour fields, painting smooth calculated monochrome canvases with tonal variations implemented through a repetitive grid-by-grid approach. While this formal exploration of the core qualities of colour and space remains a dominant concern, the artist also examines human relationships in her apparel- and furniture-based installations and textile artworks. With a growing presence on the international art circuit, her work has been exhibited in galleries and art fairs across Europe and Asia, and features in the Australian public collections of White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, and Cruthers Art Foundation, Perth.
Born in Shanxi Province in 1979, Zhang's formal style is unique to her life and experience. Her artistic influences and education are rooted in China, where abstraction is more than a complex conceptual pursuit; it is an ordinary, everyday aesthetic seen in abstract designs ranging from calligraphy to historic imperial ornamentation. Her grids reflect the square used in practicing calligraphy more than any metaphysical concept. Graduating with a BA in 2004 from the Architecture department of Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts, the artist displays principles of order and technical process common among architects in her painting technique.
Before the first brush stroke the overall tone of Zhang's canvas is meticulously pre-planned in sketches. Strictly dividing the canvas into an orderly grid, the artist typically applies three pre-set colours to separate corners. Establishing a gradient of tones through an interlocking grid process of gradually shifting colours, the artist works quickly on each row while the paint is still wet. Often the evidence of this process—the grid-lines and fast-paced blending strokes—are subsumed by the work's rhythmic pattern. Overall, the artist's process and the formal qualities in these artworks underpin an engagement with subtle gesture, drawing the audience's attention to the finest variations of colour within the cellular structure, whereby a single detail or moment rather than the whole preoccupies our vision.
Drastically more personal and emotive, Zhang's textile-based works and installations—such as Cotton print (2012) and Pulling Sweater (2011)—utilise blankets and clothing once worn by the artist or her family members. Cutting up these items associated with personal memories and experiences, and repurposing them to make new patterns and layouts—often resembling abstract painting—the artist expresses the nuances of her identity—both personal and cultural—through everyday materials.