Art Gallery, Siegen
Chinese Painting - Between Tradition and Modernity
Zeng Fanxu & Zhang Zhaofang, Deyang / Sichuan, People's Republic of China
August 31 to October 5 2007
For Zeng Fanxu and Zhang Zhaofang's first exhibition outside China, gallerist Helga Oberkalkofen and her partner Thomas Kellner have selected chiefly landscape painting. The Kunstverein Siegen has shown many variations on the theme of landscape for years and it was hoped that this would make it easier for the two Chinese artists to more easily get across to our Siegen audiences. Both painters are represented in the exhibition with individual series.
Zhang Zhaofang displays four different approaches to his environment. The first originates from a Chinese tradition with more classical watercolor painting techniques. At a distance, the landscapes appear natural to us, perhaps a little foreign because they are Chinese, but when we approach the pictures we notice a different stroke and a mastery of the surface, which can clearly be attributed to a very traditional form of Chinese painting. In a second series, the trees blur in a wet-on-wet technique that even manages to capture the reflection of water surfaces in the foreground. A third series changes the mood from the melancholy just witnessed to a colorful dance of brushstrokes that seems to be a personalö reworking of and continuation of Cezanne. Areas of color, cubes swing across the paper in short emphatic strokes that show us the springtime of the Chinese landscape. The genre painting by Zhang Zhaofang originates from different phases in his work and reveal the development from a more traditional, descriptive painting style to a depiction of painting itself. Slowly moving away from watercolors, the series of domestic scenes ends in impasto application with an abstract, expressive effect.
Zeng Fanxu found his way to painting through his friend Zhang Zhaofang. His scenes of small-town and village architecture are quick, lively sketches that only partially glow with color. The brushstrokes are very reminiscent of the poetic calligraphy of Chinese characters. In between thin lines, dusty streets and houses, some color does flash out. We find such bright islands of color in his landscape watercolors, as well, but they all have a rather dark, melancholic appearance. Almost like just before a thunderstorm, the horizon darkens and, with a few rays of sunlight, the colors of the flowers take on an almost primal glow.
Zeng Fanxu develops the landscape motif further, like his friend Zhang Zhaofang, but he takes a different path. His landscapes on canvas (and here he abandons the conditions and materiality of watercolor) do not follow the cubic path of Cezanne. At first glance, the pictures are reminiscent of some Art Brut painting. His luminous brushstrokes follow the colors of the landscape, take on a life of their own and spiral with new color. The result is abstract, colorful paintings that we can imagine representing the vibrant and magnificent future of China.
The exhibition comes about through the contact between the Siegerland Artists' Workgroup and the German-Chinese Friendship Society. The Society has repeatedly been invited and attended exhibitions, recently at the Kulturforum in Bonn, the Wasserwerk in Siegburg, but also to the twin towns of Zakopane, Plauen and Spandau, to name but a few.
In the fall of 2005, the German-Chinese Friendship Society (GDCF) asked the Siegerland Artists' Workgroup whether there was any interest in a group exhibition in Deyang, the twin town to the Siegen-Wittgenstein district.
In 1992, the GDCF organized an exhibition of works by Siegerland artists, not exclusively from the ASK, at the Confucius Temple in Deyang (Then exhibiting: Christraut Borski, Rudolf Bieler, Jochen Dietrich, Karin Fuchs, Guenther Haehner, Daniel Hees, Gereon Heil, Thomas Kellner, Heidemarie Koenigs, Juergen Koenigs, Bodo Meier, Britta Moche, Peter Nettesheim, Martin Obst, Brigitte Piecha, Uwe Pieper, Karin Rappold-Kleinert, Ann Karin Roeding, Werner Schneider, Susanne Skalski, Georg Tokarz, Nham-hee Voelkel-Song).
The members of the group quickly agreed that the ASK wanted to support such an undertaking and that there was also great interest in a trip to China.
During preparations, the ASK's request for project funding from the Siegen-Wittgenstein district made it clear that it was time for the district administrator and council to reciprocate the friendly relations with the twin town with a visit. (Initial contacts date back to 1986-88, the sisterhood was established in 1998).
In October 2006, a group of members from the GDCF and ASK artists (Sigrid Mertin, Aki Benemann, Petra Oberhäuser, Helga Seekamp and Thomas Kellner) led by Isolde Gomberg, Chairwoman of the German-Chinese Friendship Society in Siegen, set off for China, where after a week they were joined by the delegation from the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein, consisting of District Administrator Paul Breuer, representatives of the parties in the council and representatives of almost all regional media.
The delegation received a warm welcome in Deyang and the group from Siegen was able to get to know the city of Deyang in all its facets. The program also included the opening of the group exhibition of Siegen artists in the rooms of the Art Wall, which was celebrated with an official ceremony in the park opposite from it. On this occasion, Chinese and German artists met and exchanged ideas in a conference following the opening. Zeng Fanxu and Zhang Zhaofang were among the artists present, led by Hao Yuenan of the Chinese Painting Association. The artists sought contact with their German friends and showed them their own works on a laptop at a hotel one evening. Our head of the KulturBüro in the Siegen-Wittgenstein district, Wolfgang Suttner, and the Siegen artists of the ASK were very quickly convinced that the joint exhibition of these two artists in particular could be a successful continuation of the friendly relations between the two groups of artists.
Art Galerie Helga Oberkalkofen
Fürst – Johann – Moritz – Str. 1
Opening hours:Monday to Friday 10am to 7pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm
Opening hours for the exhibition: Thursday and Friday from 2pm to 7pm and by appointment.