"Skin Weave" is the third solo exhibition of Zhang Shujian in the gallery but the first focusing on his practice of pencil drawing, which is the field he has expressed himself to be most comfortable in.
Zhang Shujian's works cannot easily be categorised. Realistic at first glance the spectator quickly feels a sense of unease upon further inspection. The figures in his drawings feel familiar and fantastical at the same time and one recognises distortions and a strong focus on gravely exaggerated facial elements. In his "Skin Weave" series Zhang Shujian borrows from Western and Eastern masters and researches differences and similarities between them. His subjects however remain not at all classical and by his process of morphing all kind of natural and often exaggerated facial elements into the "models" he brings them alive and makes them utterly contemporary. But his main interest is not a formalistic one and the goal is not to please people with a clever technical mix of Eastern and Western elements. Instead his is the kind of realism that is meant to unnerve and confront people. To show them a truth that might be difficult to accept.
Zhang Shujian once stated that his aim is: "To achieve a kind of realism that would disgust people. To let all the realistic details make figures of our imagination come alive. These details are placed in front of our eyes like evidence, making it impossible for us to doubt its authenticity." A humanist at heart Zhang Shujian's exaggerated ugliness can thus serve as a reflection on the corruptions and harshness he finds in politics and the society around him. But at the same time by mercilessly exposing his subjects he brings to light a certain vulnerability and hidden beauty in them, thus emphasising universal values about human dignity which can never be erased. This is how Zhang Shujian deals with the world around him and how he presents us with his unique social commentary. By doing so the artist shows us that realism and the contemporary are not mutually exclusive.