Chen Zhen and Zhang Enli
Level 4: Room 5, The International Council Gallery
Tate Modern: Display
Open every day
Free
  • Zhang Enli, 'Bucket 5' 2007

    Zhang Enli
    Bucket 5 2007
    Oil paint on canvas
    support: 994 x 994 mm
    Purchased with funds provided by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2010 Zhang Enli

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This room presents works by two Chinese artists meditating on ideas of fragility and emptiness through obsolete or neglected everyday objects.

Chen Zhen lived and worked mainly between Shanghai, New York and Paris, and his work reflects this constant shifting between cultures, which the artist called ‘transexperience’. His sculptures and installations typically incorporate obsolete everyday objects, particularly old furniture, sometimes in combination with fragments of technology and consumer goods. This work belongs to a series of sculptures he made between 1999 and 2000, sharing the title Cocon du Vide (‘cocoon of emptiness’) and featuring chrysalis-like forms made from Chinese abacus and Buddhist rosary beads threaded onto metal frames. Their title suggests both a void and the potential for growth and transcendence from one state to another, reflecting the artist’s interest in meditation and healing processes.

The three paintings of metal buckets belong to Zhang Enli’s ongoing series of still lifes representing everyday objects found in his studio. His technique owes much to traditional Chinese ink or watercolour painting, where each brushstroke is essential. Zhang often depicts empty containers, humble items reduced to surfaces without a function. The sense of volume of the painted forms contrasts with the flatness of the canvas, enhanced by the gridlines visible through thin layers of paint. The close-up framing of these objects stresses the artifice of visual representation, whilst their emptiness becomes a metaphor for a more existential void. Zhang’s works draw attention to mundane things as mirrors for the human condition.

Chen Zhen was born in Shanghai in 1955. He lived and worked between Shanghai, New York and Paris. He died prematurely in Paris in 2000.

Zhang Enli was born in Jilin in 1965. He lives and works in Shanghai.

Curated by Matthew Gale and Valentina Ravaglia