November 17, 2020 - Power Station of Art - Zhang Enli: A Room That Can Move
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November 17, 2020

Power Station of Art

View of Zhang Enli: A Room That Can Move. Courtesy of the Power Station of Art.

View of Zhang Enli: A Room That Can Move. Courtesy of the Power Station of Art.

View of Zhang Enli: A Room That Can Move. Courtesy of the Power Station of Art.

View of Zhang Enli: A Room That Can Move. Courtesy of the Power Station of Art.

View of Zhang Enli: A Room That Can Move. Courtesy of the Power Station of Art.

View of Zhang Enli: A Room That Can Move. Courtesy of the Power Station of Art.

Zhang Enli
A Room That Can Move
November 7, 2020–March 7, 2021

Power Station of Art
678 Miaojiang Road
200011 Shanghai
China
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–7pm

T +86 21 3110 8550
media@powerstationofart.com

www.powerstationofart.com
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From November 7, 2020, to March 7, 2021, the Power Station of Art (PSA) is hosting Zhang Enli: A Room That Can Move, the largest and most comprehensive solo exhibition to date by Chinese artist Zhang Enli. Curated by Hou Hanru, the retrospective will present more than 100 paintings spanning various stages of the artist’s 30-year career, as well as a number of his newly commissioned immersive painting installations (known as “Space Paintings”) for PSA.

“Most of the time, we are all meat on the table.”
Zhang Enli was born in Jilin Province, China, in 1965. He studied calligraphy and traditional Chinese ink painting during childhood, which is seen to shape his brushstrokes on the canvas, while memories of growing up in the Northeastern grasslands have also sprung up in his paintings. In the late 90s, Zhang Enli moved to Shanghai after graduating from university. The city dwellers and their daily lives grabbed his attention, and thus, he brought these social landscapes to the canvas, depicting violence and tension under the rapid urban development of the times. In the "Two Jin of Beef" and "Old Butcher" series, Zhang Enli paints portraits of people in everyday life struggling with numbness in gloomy tones and turbulent brushstrokes. In the "Pub," "Eating," and "Intimacy" series, Zhang Enli captures people’s social state and psychological transformation in the wake of sudden economic prosperity. Beneath the dramatic tables, the tension-filled narratives, and the emotionally charged faces, there emerges the complex and intertwined human nature of that era.

“Watching it is like looking in a mirror, from which you recognize yourself.”
Since 2000, Zhang Enli has gradually developed interests in quotidian objects. This move is rather a freer expansion of his past portraiture to observe the consistent variations of people, society, and the era from another perspective. He often works in thin washes of oil paints, endowing still life with subtle textures and weighty senses of power. His choice of “objects” sometimes comes from everyday life, sometimes from his growth trajectory. The leather pipes represent the codes of city, while the balls are reminiscent of childhood, and the containers, mainly cardboard boxes, are extracted from the subconscious and memory. “Containers” dominate the works of this period. Cardboard boxes, buckets, and utensils are objects that are readily available and frequently used in people’s lives, recording all traces of consumption, survival, and memory. They resemble a mirror; a reflection of people’s identities. Through the subject-object shifting, people soon develop an unfathomable sense of emptiness and addiction. In this way, painting finally comes into reality.

“Why not just paint on the wall?”
The primary purpose of Zhang Enli’s painting practice was to transform everyday objects’ physicality into the materiality of painting. Faced with the mainstream trend of “grand themes” and “technological spectacles,” Zhang Enli decided to abandon the refinement and tedium brought about by an overly mature painting technique and instead shifted his focus to the rudimentary state of life. With direct and swift brushstrokes, he interpreted this gaze by picturing simplicity and authenticity. This need for immediacy drove him to paint directly on to walls, more or less echoing the “primitive style” of ancient frescoes. Since then, these paintings have developed into the “Space Painting” series. In “Space Painting” projects such as the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India, The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, Villa Croce in Genoa, and Galleria Borghese in Rome, he has freed himself from the limitations of the frame and painted directly on the walls as well as architectural components of the site. His painting incorporates as well as resists the wall as an overwhelming intervention in space. Sometimes the artist uses hundreds and thousands of cardboard boxes to form a private space, where he can paint spontaneously. In this exhibition, Zhang Enli’s “Space Paintings” will experiment with larger scale and newer materials, presenting visually shifting images to suggest the concept of the show, or the potentiality of moving the room by painting as an action. In this scene, the viewer’s gaze will be transformed into an embodied experience with inner emotions, from which one can genuinely explore the secret of A Room That Can Move.

Curator: Hou Hanru
Scenography Consultant: Shi Yong
Location: 3rd Floor, 5th Floor, Power Station of Art
Organizers: Power Station of Art
Thanks: ShanghART Gallery, Hauser & Wirth, Xavier Hufkens

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