“For A Bigger Picture ”
/ Zhang Enli
He was born in Jilin province in 1965. He graduated from Wuxi Technical University, Arts and Design Institute in 1989. Zhang currently is living and working in Shanghai. Mundane objects and the traces of daily life activities are the dominant depicted subjects in Zhang Enli’s works.
The muted tones and loose washes of paint intertwine with the expressive lines and curves that make the objects seem removed as if occupying a liminal reality where only the essence of the object is portrayed on the canvas. In his series of installations, known as Space Paintings, he creates the immersive space that suspends the audience into the void of time and space by incorporating with environment, history, and personal experience. Zhang Enli’s depiction on the prosaic aspects of contemporary life leads viewers to think about the proposition of existence.
In Zhang Enli's figurative portrait period, ordinary figures in meat markets, taverns, dance floors, banquets, and bathhouses are the core of Zhang Enli's depictions. At that stage, Zhang Enli's writings gave birth to one after another with figurative power. They often have tight and exaggerated muscle lines, wild and slightly provocative eyes, and their faces are expressionless and slightly numb. While the brush and ink also highlights the tension and structural tension in the picture. We can understand the true portrayal of that radical age through these paintings.
The characters fade out of the picture, and the main body gives way to daily objects that are randomly placed on the table: thermos, poker, cigarette butts, boxes... Without the image of a person, the viewer can still feel the presence of the characters, expressing Traces of various characters who once appeared in this space.
Zhang Enli’s subjects start to be more strictly related to real ‘city characters’. After having been based in Shanghai for quite a while, his way of living has become ‘metropolitan’, and his gaze has changed into one of a city-person who looks at the people around him. He has gained a new and refined skill at noticing all the changes taking place in the city, even though he has not modified mush his expressive pictorial language. However, his attitude towards the city is very sceptical, leading him to adopt a detached expressionist style to portray the life of his fellow citizens. Zhang Enli’s viewpoint is critical towards the contemporary civilization standard, he is sceptical about artificial beauty, the sudden change of life one experienceing in large cities, the quick and unnatural improvement of economics, all the false temptation and desires, and exaggerate eating and drinking.
Zhang Enli's pictures became more and more "light", gradually abandoning the original "thick" pictures with red and black as the main colors, and clear beige, light coffee and green began to appear in his pictures. At the same time, the protagonists in the picture also began to be replaced by daily objects. Several buckets, a leather tube, several cardboard boxes, several balls and nets, a tree, and even a corner of a toilet covered with mosaics... These daily objects have always been regarded as supporting roles or backgrounds in the history of painting of Zhang Enli. The eyes have another meaning.
Now, painting on canvas and flat surface seems to be unable to meet Zhang Enli's requirements for painting, and he has begun to trace the source of painting. The frescoes on the original caves inspires him to paint beyond the canvas. As a result, Zhang Enli has expanded his painting into "spatial painting". He has gotten rid of the limitations of canvases and picture frames, and painted directly on site walls, various building components and cardboard boxes, trying to escape the long-standing inherent form of painting. It also makes painting itself an act of intervening and intervening in space.
In Zhang Enli's works, you can see that his pictures are neither material nor empty, but permeated with a certain spiritual quality. Each of his strokes seems to be a temptation to approach the essence of things, and what is more worth examining should be the abundance of his heart behind his great power.
Zhang Enli’s solo exhibition held in numerous important institutions, including Long Museum, Chongqing (2021); Power Station of Art, Shanghai (2020); Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, Switzerland (2020); Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, Belgium (2019); Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy (2019); K11 Art Foundation, Shanghai (2019); Royal Academy of Arts, London, U.K. (2018); Hauser & Wirth, New York, U.S.A. (2018); Firstsite, Colchester, England (2017); Moca, Taipei (2015); ShanghART, Shanghai (2015); Hauser & Wirth, London, U.K. (2014); K11 Art Foundation, HK (2014); Villa Croze, Genoa, Italy (2013); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, U.K. (2013); Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai (2011); Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai (2010); and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, U.K. (2009), a presentation which travelled to Kunsthalle Bern, Berne, Switzerland (2009) etc. His works also featured in group exhibitions, such as, UCCA Edge, Shanghai (2021); Fondazione Prada, Italy (2018), Museum of Modern Art Antwerp, Belgium (2018); 1st Antarctic Biennale, Antarctica (2017); Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2016); PAC-Milan Museum of Contemporary Art, Italy (2015); Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany (2015); Tate Modern, London, U.K. (2015); Yokohama Triennale, Japan (2014); Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada (2014); Contemporary Art Museum of the Rubell Family Collection, Miami, U.S.A. (2013); Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, U.K.(2013); Kochi-Muziris, Kochi, India (2012); The First Chinese Oil Painting Biennial, Instituto Paranaense de Arte, Curitiba, Brazil (2011); The Eighth Gwangju Biennale, Korea (2010); The 7th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai (2008); Villa Manin-Centre for Contemporary Art Passariano, Italy (2006) etc. Zhang Enli's works are in numerous museum collections, including K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; Royal Academy of Arts, London, U.K.; Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; M+Collection, Hong Kong; Long Museum, Shanghai; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, U.S.A.; How Art Museum, Shanghai; Yuz Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia; SIFANG Art Museum, Nanjing; LVMH, France; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, U.K.; Franks Suss Collection, London, U.K.; Tate Modern, London, U.K.; The UBS Art Collection, Zürich, Switzerland; DSL Collection, Paris, France; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai