Zeng Fanzhi: From Hand to Mind
The preeminent Chinese painter reveals the theory and thought behind his work
The search for identity in socially and politically evolving China characterizes Zeng Fanzhi's work. Often compared to the German Expressionists, his vivid brushstrokes have made him the most high-valued Asian artist working today ("The Last Supper," inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's 15th-century mural of the same name, sold for $23.3 million at a 2013 Sotheby's auction, eclipsing Takashi Murakami's "My Lonesome Cowboy"). While marketplace demand soars, the unassuming personality behind these coveted works is seldom seen. Filmmaker Alison Chernick captured a rare moment with Fanzhi in Paris, between openings, when the artist opened up about the value of technique and spirituality. "I was fascinated by his technical sophistication, alongside his critical handling of the social issues facing modern Chinese society," says Chernick, "and how he balances between the internal and external faces that he depicts via his masks. His work confronts the viewer with the cold truth; the need to repress and conform, which comes at great costs to those living in China today."