In 1982, Zhang Jian Long was born in Nanzhou, Gansu Province. In 2004, he graduated from the Fine Arts Department of Nanyang Normal University, Henan Province. His graduation artwork was published in the 2003 Annual Works of China Fine Arts Academies. From 2004 to 2008 he has taken part in various exhibitions in China. In his works, Zhang is demonstrating the spirit of ancient people who he believes were less narrow-minded than today's people. Zhang says, "Modern culture has destroyed humankind's instinctive rationality, unknowingly, it sneaks into a person, influences him and oppresses his intuition. Modern peoples' state of mind and thoughts are subjected to influences from civilization which causes a lack of creativity and courage".
The Young Heart Soars: Interpreting the Paintings of Zhang Jianlong
The young heart: The driving force behind the development of individual lives and the impetus for the progress of mankind as a whole, the original force behind the creation of human culture. How should we go about taking a fresh look, allowing ourselves to interpret anew the young, pure heart‚Äôs animalistic state in the modern civilization that its yearn for progress has created? How should we reorient ourselves vis-√†-vis life‚Äôs meaning and its value, both for the individual as well as for mankind as a whole? These are the questions now challenging those interested in the course future cultural development will take around the world, perhaps nowhere more so than today‚Äôs in China. Mr. Zhang Jianlong, in his ‚ÄúPlayTime‚ÄĚ series of paintings, first attempts to look upon the world from the unique perspective of a child‚Äôs eyes, and then ponders the groan of a human soul twisted by modern civilization. He directly attacks the way in which the civilization we have created now constrains our hearts and destroys our spirits, steadfastly eulogizing the hopes and dreams of childhood.
Through depicting an ideal union of heaven and man, in which people live with the innocence and joy of children at play, free from the confines of modern society, Zhang Jianlong‚Äôs paintings show us the richness of the human spirit‚Äôsfull, unbridled potential while also exploring possibilities for diverse cultural development beyond the canvas. Particularly precious is the fact that in choosing his themes and selecting subject matter for his work, Zhang Jianlong emphasizes uniquely Chinese elements, drawing upon quintessentially Chinese philosophy while also enriching his methods of artistic expression by incorporating techniques reminiscent of traditional Chinese folk arts.
Sharpness and Tranquility
In this selection of paintings chosen for the exhibition ‚ÄúOriginal Experience,‚ÄĚ Zhang Jianlong combines elements of traditional folk arts such as shadow puppets, paper cutting and ceramics combine to produce paintings that depict a Chinese culture unadulterated by the complexities of modernity. A young man from Northwestern China, Zhang Jianlong combines earth and air to produce a sharpnew vision, using bright colors to outline his subjects‚Äô inner worlds as he asks urbanized society to reflect on its experience. Zhang Jianlong‚Äôswork should be seen as a sign that the young generation of artists born in the 1980‚Äôs has arrived, bringing with them artistic language reflecting their unique cultural and historical background. As we step into the 21st century we should stop to look back upon China‚Äôs artistic history during the last decades of the previous century, with the ‚ÄúSentimental Art‚ÄĚ of the late 1970‚Äôs, the ‚ÄúNeo Classicism‚ÄĚ of the 1980‚Äôs, the ‚ÄúNew Age‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúPolitical Pop Art‚ÄĚ movements of the 1990‚Äôs all forming schools with very distinctive characteristics that were products of their times. The 2000‚Äôs now bring the crunch of a collision between light and dark, of history colliding with present day reality, of capitalism vying with idealism, and of the will to truly live competing with temptation to merely exist. This clash between light and dark, not only in art, but also in politics and economics, has created the necessary environment for the emergence of a movement towards a new conceptualism.
In this pursuit, Zhang Jianlong uses color to show what life can be, with large flat swaths of color expressing the artist‚Äôs clear and unyielding attitude towards the human experience. Zhang Jianlong‚Äôs artistic language is at its sharpest when he employs the motifs of subjects partially rendered as leather shadow puppets and mouths are stretched wide open. The subjects in his paintings walk down a road, as people in life walk along a path bounded by the realities of their individual circumstances. Zhang Jianlong walks along the promising yet inhibiting path of self-development. Language isn‚Äôt always strong enough, the voice doesn‚Äôt always carry, there is no way to free oneself from the toil of expression. The struggle the artist is engaged in is fully expressed in his work, courses through his veins and defining his existence as an artist. Yet after the surge of ideas ebbs, life is natural, passion is real, struggle is abstract, art is incisive, and society is still complicated.
Perhaps culture can explain philosophy, and perhaps in the reality of human life culture is ignored, so how can philosophy save reality? Only artists set out to experience the answers to these questions. Sometimes not so clearly but always full of strength, Zhang Jianlong‚Äôs voice rings out as he stands together singing art‚Äôs song with this contingent of those who have made this choice. We know they have arrived. There is no need for them to stay on the sidelines with bound hands and feet. It is now time for the new generation to take the initiative and participate in the process of creating a better society. Those that know Zhang Jianlong soon discover he is a quiet person who likes to take life with a smile. The impression we get is that he is a genuine and gentle young man, yet his gentleness masks his underlying passion. In the instant we are revisited by memories, we are reinvigorated; the unremitting pursuit of life gives affords us opportunity and passion.
Zhang Jianlong‚Äôs paintings have made a deep impression on me, with their snowcapped mountains, broad plains, childlike innocence, hardships, helplessness, and smiles. There is happiness, there are struggles, and there is freedom. The human is displayed alongside the natural, tranquility alongside conflict. The intensification of these contradictions allows the artist to gradually progress towards rational consideration, and to reveal a search for deeper meaning on a simple canvas. The artist should not think of this before lifting hisbrush. On the contrary, it must come forth from the subconscious. This is a choice, but also no choice at all. It is real, but also not wholly real. This feeling is right, this language has spoken, and this attitude is more firmly fixed.