Zhang Wen’s brushstrokes are simple and forthright. Her use of colour, tonal variation and colour saturation is reminiscent of traditional Chinese ink, and her exceptional composition and perspective reveals an uncommon intelligence. Her art has the distinctive feel and atmosphere of Chinese ink, yet at the same time is distinctive with her own intimately personal and experimental language.
The selection of Zhang’s works featured in this solo exhibition, all created in 2016 and 2017, can be broadly divided into three themes: daily life, celebration, and archeology.
“Daily Life” here is comprised of a group of small-sized paintings using gray tones, showing a tiny person’s life in a “Little, Big” world. They are works Zhang created in a leisurely fashion, using a sprinkling of fine lines. In the style of traditional Chinese painting, themes never stand out and must obey traditional rules. Similar motifs such as mountains, lakes, and the moon are therefore repeatedly utilized but shine with new and creative enchantment, as if they are the components of each and every line within a lyrical ode, forming varied versions of poetic charm within the creations of different writers. Zhang’s approach brings viewers a sight of the cranes reminiscent of those from Emperor Huizong (Song Dynasty) as well as the Jing Nong sandbank, with tiny human figures wandering about.
The second theme is centered around “Celebration”, which refers to ceremony, divination, sacrificial practices, or reunions, forming a stark contrast to the sense of leisure found in “Daily Life”. Here, if one were to take a closer look, a great variety of rare exotic treasures and legendary animals can be found in addition to pure Chinese elements, reminding viewers of the prescientific era.
The third theme, a new exploration Zhang undertook in 2016, serves as the “archaeological site” which covers small, bronze statues and the debris of tiny human relics, bringing a whole new dimension to the entire Other World story line. Two thousand years back, people living during the Han Dynasty paid equal attention to death and life, so sculptures and burial artifacts in graves were somehow more important to them than whatever was to be used during their lives on Earth. These “brick reliefs”, with the particular pristine beauty of graves, are thus an important basis on which we can trace back the vision of their lives. Some of these very pictures served as an inspiration for Zhang and filled her with ideas concerning both the ancient and present times.