The latest exhibition of the Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi opened yesterday evening at the Gagosian Gallery at Britannia Street in London.
The world’s financial centre is now offering a wide range of different exhibitions putting the spotlight on Chinese artists, indicating that art investors from Europe as well from China are more keen than ever on adding Chinese contemporary art to their collection.
The guests at the opening represented a heterogeneous group of art investors, young City professionals, students, the gallery owner Larry Gagosian; as well as the artist Zeng Fanzhi himself.
The huge galley space was especially reconstructed for this exhibition to apply the concepts of Feng Shui (wind water) to the space.
This means, that the rooms of the gallery had to grant an open flow of energy.
The Gagosian Gallery chose its London space for the exhibition due to its size.
The wide walls of the gallery offer the perfect conditions to put the large paintings in the right light.
The largest room shows three paintings, each 400 x 400 cm, on the largest wall, surrounded by three others, one on each wall of the room showing imaginary landscapes.
Notably, the three paintings next to each other are the most outstanding paintings of the exhibition.
Albrecht Dürer’s images of Praying Hands, his world famous hare and a self-portrait are the themes of the three paintings.
Inspired by the German painter from Nürnberg, who lived during the Renaissance, Fanzhi added candles, pastel colours and bush wood – covering the images with thick brushstrokes – to his paintings.
The size, the texture and the combination of colours in the art works make the latest series unique, even as they represent Dürer’s images.
However, if you wanted to move closer to the paintings to explore the thick oil colour texture in more detail, the guards standing next to them tell you to “please step back“.
The rediscovery of Albrecht Dürer’s rabbit, his praying hands and his portrait of the old man addresses the issue of the importance of art history how it has led contemporary art to what it is now.
Although the contemporary Chinese artist Fanzhi lives and was born in Beijing, he addresses Western art and the traditional way of art production by using Dürer’s images.
The exhibition gives hope to that contemporary artists are still holding on to painting, as many others have lost interest in the traditional way of producing art and prefer to create installations and art that looks rather scribbled than well-thought-out.
Although many Chinese artists, such as Sheng Qi focus on the political situation of their country, Zeng Fanzhi is not interested in mixing his art with political issues and in becoming famous (although he has established himself as a well-known Chinese artist owing to his personal style), as he wants to depicts “a restless journey of discovery” in his art.
“In our country, I like to think we will still focus on the energy of creating. That is so important. Because here in China, when you have fame, people will try to destroy you. For example, if you look at Weibo [China’s Twitter], there will be some very horrible things on it. So fame and the larger environment is not always that helpful. You have to stay true to your heart, and try to ignore the outside world,” he told Dylan Jones, the editor of British GQ.
Zeng Fanzhi’s exhibition is shown until the January 10 at the main gallery space of the Gagosian Gallery space in London.
The artist has previously exhibited his work in Shanghai, Beijing, New York, Berlin, London, Paris, Venice, Hamburg, Bern Taiwan, Barcelona and Sofia.
(The opinions expressed are my own. I am a freelance journalist based in London, exploring the changing art market.)