Today Image Curators Artsit Advisory are honoured to publish an exclusive interview with contemporary Chinese artist, Zhang Zhiyong. Living and working in Beijing, Zhang’s canvases are visual representations of his attempt to cross the boundaries between fine art and art iconography through a plethora of flowing lines, dancing shapes, and pop art colours. Discover below his artistic research, influences, challenges and goals of being an emerging artist in one of the biggest art clusters in Asia.
- Zhang Zhiyong you have been living and working in Beijing for a while now, is that correct? As an artist, what do you like about the city? What is the art scene like there, and do you feel a part of that community?
Yes, yes, indeed, for some years; I was planning to come to Beijing before I graduated from University, and [once I graduated], I achieved it.
As the capital of the country, the centre of politics, economy and culture, Beijing is a dynamic arena for many artistic people, a place for many young people to aspire to live, and an ideal place to pursue their dreams.
As for the art scene, it is very difficult to say. At present the overall artistic atmosphere here is somewhat strange. You know, after a brief rollercoaster-like art boom [that happened during the] Olympiads, the overall artistic atmosphere has calmed down [now]. I really hope that the next heyday [of the art scene in Beijing] will soon break through the haze and welcome a sunrise.
- Technology plays an important role in the creation of your paintings. Can you tell us more about your process?
“Technology and technique are the lifeblood of the artist.” I remember that while I was studying at the China Academy of Art, every time a painting instructor talked about or directed our painting methods and techniques, would mention this phrase tirelessly. After experiencing the tempering of artistic life and the severe beating of society, I really understood what my mentor said. Hahaha, it seems a bit late.
My personal art creation process, to be honest, is difficult to articulate in a paragraph. The artistic process of each piece undergoes numerous iterations in my mind, with each idea taking over the other until the fittest survives to create the final artwork. I believe this is the most important step of the artistic process, first to select different means to obtain the same result, and secondly to choose the technique, painting and presentation according to the subject matter and theme. The combination of seriousness, vivacity, scrutiny, scepticism and criticism has made the process of creating every work of art “inconsistent,” but it also shows the trace of my own artistic journey.
As for the meaning of the work, I hope to convey to the general public a sense of divergent, inclusive, varied and accessible thoughts; the space left for the audience to imagine is the extension of my work.
3. Your visual style has changed quite a lot, going from more classical painting to a vibrant and pop style with strong expressionist influences. What has influenced you and made you switch to your current visual narrative?
Is that true? In fact, my choice of style is classical, slightly serious, contemporary and vibrant paintings. Recently, I have read the philosophical works of some Western philosophers (such as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, etc.), which has been a great inspiration for me. Classical paintings focus on the reason, on the attention to perfection of form and to the clarity and rigour of lines.
I believe that contemporary and vibrant paintings should uphold the true essence of beauty of classical art, because I think it’s a guide to the arts and the mind. It’s a process that responds to nature. And I’m going to keep trying new ways to pursue the beauty of my art.
- What are some of the artists and themes that influence you the most?
Good artists have a genuine intention and a sincere heart. For example, Giorgio Morandi’s still-life paintings can be viewed as human beings: the whole scene assembles just like a photograph of an entire family or a group photo of friends.
Picasso was conscious of looking carefully at the dust of his own studio. Master sculptor Henry Moore treated his devotion’s heat very carefully, etc. There is a description in “Lofty Record of Forests and Streams” about Chinese paintings:
“The mountains take water as their veins, grass as their hairs, and smoke as their gods. So the mountain is alive with water, the grass is magnificent, and the smoke is beautiful. The water takes the mountain as its face, the pavilion as its eye, and the fishing as its spirit. So the water is beautiful, the pavilion is bright, and the fishing has started. In this way the scenery is arranged”.
This also reflects the philosophical realm of harmony between men and Nature in Chinese paintings. In fact, all things are spiritual and all things are one. Human nature is the same, although the Chinese and Western artistic expressions are different, however there is no difference in essence. The difference stands in the hearts and minds – too egoistic and too arrogant. In fact, there isn’t a single artist who has influenced me. I will learn to integrate and absorb any ancient and modern, Chinese and foreign works of art [within my practice]/
- In the context of being an emerging artist in one of the current Chinese art clusters, how important is it for you to set yourself new challenges and goals for your career to keep up with a fast-growing art market?
Challenges and goals – not only for those of us who make art, I believe that everyone has their goals in their hearts, their own challenges to face and cannot avoid. Socrates said, “The happiest thing in the world is to fight for dreams.” I enjoy the happiness of my current artistic creation and, of course, I hope that my work will be accepted and recognised by the general public.
5. 为一个新兴艺术家在一个当前的中国艺术集群的, 为你的职业生涯设置新的挑战和目标有多重要？
- Do you have any upcoming projects?
In September and October , plans were made to create a collection of works with African cultural characteristics for an African embassy in China, because I have always dreamt of going to the African continent, where the open and wild natural ecology has a similar feeling to my inner pursuit of art.
I’m also creating sculptures as I hope to bring new and different art works to the public, presenting a diverse artistic experience.
- Where can we buy your work?
My work is currently concentrated in my Beijing studio. Interested friends can make an appointment to enjoy it. In addition, my good friend, Ms Fu Lang (Francesca Budini Gattai, co-founder of Image Curators Advisory) helps me with my promotion and agency work. Click here to find out more about my work.