A Solo Show by Zhang Zhongge: Double Happiness
2023.04.27 - 2023.05.21

Zhang Zhongge: Double Happiness

By Zhang Yingying

“Double Happiness” is a collection of introspective and analytical images created by artist Zhang Zhongge over the course of three years. This period marks the beginning of his attempt to incorporate primitivist impulses into his paintings in order to “redress” the modernity present in them.

In these works, one can find a classical gaze, modernist analysis, and a deconstructive style. They also possess a raw artistic glamour reminiscent of Gauguin's primitive motifs and unadorned artistic expression in Tahiti. These works overflow with a misty kind of rationality, fascination, and even a belief in some kind of dependency, but they have an unswerving quality. The deconstructionist technique underlies the guise of a realistic style, while spiritual elements are channeled through an interesting perspective of interaction.

Zhang Zhongge’s painting style has been influenced by the visual texture of early films and martial arts movies. He dubs it “an ambience double happiness” (Xi Diao), where simplicity is the style, and even a soft brushstroke can create a hard cement-like effect. The people and things depicted under Zhang Zhongge’s brush are either distorted and exaggerated or emotionally intense and complex, seeming to gaze back at us from within.

He has an almost stubborn heart with unwavering determination. In his hands, the shapes are clumsy and the lines rough. Typically, this type of painting conveys a strong sense of materiality. Block-shaped “dewdrops” rain down from above like seeds, forming geometric shapes upon impact. Still lifes of spherical objects create a mesmerizing visual interplay. Box-shaped clouds (resembling cubes) are transformed by classical modernist theory into building blocks of a mirage-like city. The “thick underarm hair,” with its slightly provocative yet bashful aura, conveys a primal message that awaits conquest by traditional aesthetics.

The once-closed and anxious life has led him to produce works that exhibit qualities such as rigor, unease, awkwardness, and confusion, but he has constantly been seeking a sense of balance. These characteristics contribute to his distinctive style with the “ambience of double happiness” (Xi Diao), which is grounded in a close emotional bond with everyday life. The most important aspect of this style is its connection to reality, showcasing art that reflects subtle emotional relationships from the “Tahitis” of the countryside, streets, marketplaces, and specific people and things. He is not keen on providing any dialectical perspectives, critical attitudes, or reflective meanings in his works. Rather, he only offers story-like information filtered through the critical context and grand narrative of contemporary art. These stories take place almost exclusively within small households or among ordinary people in everyday life.

The Chinese character of “double happiness” is as much a symbol as it is a special quality encapsulating a blushing moment of rebirth. The exhibition attempts to enact, through a cinematic approach, the spiritual state and natural climate of the northern regions, so that the mundane can become transcendent and the simple solemn.

“Double Happiness” is Zhang Zhongge’s first solo exhibition.