SENS Gallery is pleased to announce its first exhibition of 2023, Time of Togetherness, a solo presentation featuring the work of Chinese painter Zhang Qingzhu. Zhang’s work reflects on nostalgia and it reminisces the drastically developing time after the Open Door Policy of the 1980s to the 1990s. His bright, vivid imagery depicts the simplicity of life and strength of the people through things passed.
Zhang Qingzhu’s work highlights the collective memories of a particular era, reflecting on the positivity of the people and their lives. Amidst the chaotic and constant evolution of society and culture in the past few decades, images of youth and innocence spark hope and optimism. Zhang’s work is visual storytelling through theatrics: small children are physically expressive; animals contribute to the joviality of the scenes and slogans across the background signify messages of assurance to everyone who sees them. He meticulously portrays vivid lights and shadows as well as geometric planes to convey a clear sense of absurdity within the innocence of his characters and reflects on the dissolution of these ideals as time passes. The paintings are spatial in composition, engaging audiences into a conversation between the past and the present.
Taking photographs of the streets surrounding him and documenting people’s lifestyles is Zhang’s approach to create artworks that allow him to echo reality yet synthesize with other elements to create an idyllic image of Chinese society. Zhang divides his paintings into different sections to provide a sense of perspective yet maintains a flat style throughout his work. His bright, elaborate colour palette and crisp detail is attributed to surrealist techniques. His paintings provide the audience with both three-dimensionality through perspective in his backgrounds, and the saturation of elements to emphasize a dreamlike quality that echoes the fading past.
Primarily using oil paint as a medium to trace back the memories of his childhood, Zhang subtly reverberates the dreamy and intimate compositions of Belgian painter Paul Franco Delvaux and mimics a similar style to Salvador Dali. In addition, Zhang attributes the work of Chinese artists Feng Zikai and Qi Baishi as inspiration for his cartoon-like style and playful subject matter. Zhang’s own childhood curiosity and imagination transcribes his visual language and creates a temporal and spatial conversation between artist and audience. Each painting is only a fragment of a larger narrative; the artist deliberately veils the toils of social reforms.
The reverie of children’s curiosities of the environment surrounding them allowed Zhang to freely create work that implemented the wonderful feeling of simplicity and innocence. The cohesion of reality and imagination depicting life in the past is drawn from Zhang’s own experiences – as a witness to the rapid change and development of society, he wants to convey to the audience the wonderful feeling of living in a utopia through his paintings.