Zhang Enli’s lyrical works on canvas are often inspired by seemingly ordinary objects, which can range from cardboard boxes to pieces of string, or aspects of everyday life, such as urban structures or landscape features. In such works, Enli strives to capture the immaterial and essential qualities of the object, such as the implications of weight, transparency, softness or flexibility. Enli is also known for pushing the boundaries of painting by creating site-specific sculptures that play with the historical echoes of their surroundings or across the interiors of specially constructed wooden pavilions. Known as ‘space paintings’, these immersive installations take their cue from psychological and emotional experiences, such as childhood memories or the sights and sounds of specific places. The scale of these works and the vitality of the individual brushstrokes invite the viewer to contemplate both the physical nature of the creative process and the artist’s relationship to the space. His distinctive style—fluid, spontaneous and gestural—draws on both Eastern and Western painterly traditions. The flowing lines are reminiscent of traditional Chinese brush painting, for example, whereas visible grid lines point to the Renaissance technique of ‘squaring up’ a motif for enlargement and transfer to the canvas. Enli is a master of colour and light, preferring to work in thin washes of paint and clear, crystalline colours with dark contrasts. His lightness of touch lends his oeuvre an ethereal, harmonious and deeply evocative quality.
Zhang Enli (b. 1965, Jilin Province in China) lives and works in Shanghai. He graduated from the Arts & Design Institute of Wuxi Technical University, China in 1989. Selected solo exhibitions include Zhang Enli, K11 Foundation, Shanghai, China (2019), The Bird Cage: a temporary shelter, Galleria Borghese and the Uccelliera, Rome, Italy (2019), Gesture and Form, Firstsite, Colchester, England (2017); Zhang Enli, Moca, Taipei, Taiwan (2015); Landscape, Museo d’Arte contemporanea di Villa Croce, Genoa, Italy (2013); and Space Painting, ICA, London, England (2013).