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Universal theme explored

ARTIST Zeng Fanzhi has moved on from his famous "Mask" series. His new exhibit is seemingly preoccupied with death, writes Wang Jie.

Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum is focusing on another big star of the Chinese contemporary art world - Zeng Fanzhi.

The exhibit, "2010 Zeng Fanzhi," is underway at the museum through October 12.

The show features Zeng's oil paintings, sculptures, prints, pencil drawings and installation pieces.

Born in 1964 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, Zeng is a pioneering figure in Chinese contemporary art due to his "Mask" series for which he gained domestic and international fame.

But Zeng is not content to rest on his past success.

The single oil painting at the museum's entrance serves as a prelude to the rest of the exhibit.

The painting makes a strong visual impact as well as a statement. It depicts the image of a just-slaughtered bull lying flayed and still bleeding. The rapid and unruly brushwork reveal the artist's agitation and absorption.

The dripping paint resembles fresh blood oozing from the wound, and viewers can almost feel the animal as it takes its last few breaths.

On the museum's second floor, two 10-meter-high canvases span the entire section, the largest paintings Zeng has ever created.

In both paintings, he uses random brushstrokes to depict an abstract landscape.

A critic was once asked about Zeng's work.

He commented: "The rhythm of lines melt into the abstract in a composition succinct and skillful as old hand scrolls, with the grace and refinement of brush-and-ink paintings."

These two paintings show a wilderness scorched by wildfire. Withered tree branches contort skyward as white-hot flames leap and play, leaving dull-red coals shimmering in the deep places of the dense thicket.

Despite the similarity in content, Zeng uses color to devastating effect to create a powerful contrast between the two pieces.

One painting is mainly silver gray while the other features red, yellow, blue and green.

Zeng often paints with two brushes simultaneously. He uses one to describe his subjects while the other meanders the canvas, seemingly leaving traces of his subconscious.

The museum's third and fourth floors display Zeng's first-ever works in sculpture and copperplate etching. Blending imagery of animals and figurative evocations of death and remains, these pieces are a reflection of Zeng's ongoing contemplation of the relationship between man and nature.

Zeng says he hesitates to define a good piece of art.

"Picasso once faced the same question," he says. "I remember that he said something to the effect that there was no standard to judge a piece of good art, but he could immediately tell if it is bad.

"It is all too difficult to use just several words or simple sentences, as art is too rich to decipher," adds Zeng.

Date: through October 12 (closed on Mondays), 10am-5pm

Address: 20 Huqiu Rd


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