It’s hard to re-imagine a work of any artist and go on a difficult journey to start painting from scratch of some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most memorable self-portraits that you would one day call your own. But one of China’s best known contemporary artist, Zeng Fanzhi, did it anyway.
As “Shared spirit” and “Deep connection” are two most potent factors that guided Zeng when he was in the re-make of the post-impressionist artwork series. He added a fresh twist to present a series of striking paintings that lend fresh energy and vibrancy to the Dutch artist’s works. He has also combined the art of Chinese calligraphy and handwriting to lend a distinctive brushstroke that would leap off his artwork.
“That an artist really dares to enter into that confrontation again, and look at Vincent’s work afresh, and … do his own thing with it. That is for us of course, really interesting and really inspiring.” – Exhibition’s curator Maite van Dijk told AFP at a recent press preview.
In the showcase, Zeng has done a re-make of Van Gogh from the 1889 self-portrait; he painted the Dutch artist in a blue furry hat, his ear bandaged with a pipe in his mouth, still staring somewhere into the distance. “But Zeng has overlaid the portrait with a dizzying swirl of bold, rich lines. It’s both instantly recognisable, and yet completely new,” according to a source.
Through this experience, you get a grasp of how Zeng had tried to step into the world of Van Gogh and sense deeply about the latter’s running thoughts and emotions when he tried to create very natural yet striking pieces that would speak of the modern sensibility. “Van Gogh and I differ a lot in many ways. There are 100 years of time difference between us,” said Zeng.
Speaking through a translator, Zeng said that he is a “contemporary artist” while Van Gogh is a “post-impressionist artist” and both of them also expressed themselves differently. But they do share a common ground in terms of a similarity of spirit, speaking of his “inner excitement” in a burst of work he produced the large paintings in just a couple of years.
The museum always tries to show that “Van Gogh is still relevant to modern and contemporary artists,” said director Rueger, adding Zeng’s work showed a “very deep connection” with the Dutch master’s work. Zeng, whose 2001 painting “The Last Supper” sold for $23.3 million in 2013 has earned him a recognition of being one of China’s top-selling living artists.
Born in 1964 in Wuhan in Hubei province, the artist lives and works in Beijing and has seen his artworks exhibited in many of the world’s top museums. In this new exhibition, Zeng is the first living Asian artist to hang alongside Van Gogh in Amsterdam.
The exhibition Zeng Fanzhi | Van Gogh is presented at The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.