Chun: The Topography of Spring

Tenya Mastoras
Jun 3, 2016 6:38PM

Over the past decade, Zhang He has mesmerized us with his vigorous compositions of still lifes and figures captured in increasing abstraction. In this new exhibition titled Chun, the artist’s rich imagination leads him into a deeper exploration of the human psyche. For Zhang, Chun not only signifies the season Spring, but also includes all the variations of emotional topography associated with this time of year. This hopeful and inclusive cycle captures the artist’s response to the fluctuating phases of the season. Vitality, joy, desire, lust, and revival serve as the motives for these paintings. 

The canvas Farewell hints at the freshness of a new beginning, a reawakening of the senses. The hectic diagonal streaks of pink, white, and green herald this revival, while the odd slash of black appears as an exclamation. He further juxtaposes the richly applied impasto with spare washes of pigment revealing his acute sense of composition. This minimalism appears in several works, notably in the monumental diptych Composition 1, where slashes of paint mingle in a passionate affair, scarring the wash of pink paint beneath. Zhang continues with his complex interchange of colours in the paintings Liberty at Heart and Welcome.

The jagged energy of the reds interacts with the blacks, blues, greens and whites, engulfing the paintings whole. A fiery Translation in Red rekindles an infernal surge of desire. The sculptural tongues of paint melt into a roiling sea. Our eyes navigate his painted world of eternal flux. 

Zhang He was born in Shenyang, China in 1963. He studied painting at the Lu Xun Art Institute in Shenyang after completing studies of photography at the Beijing Institute of Communication. Zhang moved to Montreal in 1998 and has recently built an expansive studio in the Laurentians, as well as frequently visiting his Beijing studio where he continues to paint. His works are in private and corporate collections throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Zhang’s artwork has been regularly exhibited internationally; recently he participated in the Biennale Internazionale dell’Arte Contemporanea in Florence and in the Union-National Touring Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Artists at Thailand’s National Gallery in Bangkok. Chun is Zhang He’s third showing with Odon Wagner Contemporary.

Tenya Mastoras