Zhang Wei (b. 1952) is regarded as one of the first abstract painters in China. Beginning his career in the 1970s as part of the unofficial artist collective Wuming, Zhang followed the groups intent to express an individual artistic approach apart from the established art forms at that time. Encounters with western Abstract Expressionism and its protagonists such as Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg in the early 80’s, offered Zhang a different view on his own artistic practice and encouraged his aim for personal freedom of expression by dedicating himself to a non-representational form. His paintings pick up particularly the immediate and intuitive approaches of action painting. Nevertheless, alongside references to western modern painting, Zhang’s works also allude to traditional Chinese ink and calligraphy techniques. Similarly, his practice reminds of the Asian tradition of “qi”, that describes painting as a process of releasing energy when ink and paper touch through the brush.
“Zhang Wei has a dramatic visual language and has a strikingly self-possessed personality, the optical impact of his canvases register instantaneously. Through boldly applied paint and bright colors, the movement of the artist’s brush is visible on canvas, it brings the viewer bodily awareness – the conditions and processes by which Zhang Wei’s applied paint becomes essential to our appreciation of his works. […] He describes his style as wu xing – spontaneous, enlightened mode of creativity. Action Painting falls under the same descriptive vocabulary. But how does Zhang Wei know when a painting is complete? He tells me that his fear is of ‘painting a canvas to death’. He strives instead for a more flexible sense of ‘incompleteness’, and in this sense, negative space in the form of the picture surface is integral to his compositions.”
Lee Ambrozy, ‘Zhang Wei and Abstraction’, in Zhang Wei. The Abstract Paintings, Boers-Li Gallery, 2013
Image: Z-AC1638, 2016, oil on linen, 180 cm.
Selected Institutional Exhibitions
Boers-Li Gallery Beijing | New York / Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin | Paris | London / Holzwarth Publications, Berlin 2019
With texts by He Guiyan, Hans Werner Holzwarth and a conversation between Zhang Wei and Colin Siyuan Chinnery