Capturing the Moon – A Solo Show by Zhang Wenjuan
2022.03.26 - 2022.03.27
Artists: Zhang Wenjuan

Zhang Wenjuan: Capturing the Moon

Curated by: Fiona He


Zhang Wenjuan adopts the term "Capturing the Moon" to bring together her most recent series of works on paper in which flora and fauna is the main subject of depiction. These works, painted with mineral pigments taken from natural elements, offer qualities of stability, vivacity, and texture while asserting an atemporal sensibility. Most of all, the imageries encapsulate the moment in which the flowers bloom. Throughout art history, flowers have taken on various forms in Eastern and Western cultures and aesthetics, engendering genres from the birds-and-flowers in traditional Chinese painting to still life (Pronkstilleven) in the Flemish region. Furthermore, when people look at flowers, they often associate them with notions of transience and ephemerality, evoking sentiments for life’s fragility.


With anticipation for spring to arrive, Zhang Wenjuan first embarked on this series in the spring of 2020 when a global pandemic loomed over our minds. Presenting this body of work two years later, the artist has imbued her perception of time passing and a compelling drive with transformations from mother nature. Indeed, one way of diving into an artist's practice is by perusing her written ideas. In the artist statement, Zhang Wenjuan mentions drawing notions from Wang Yangming’s Instructions for Practical Living and Other Neo-Confucian Writings, the Pre-Raphaelites, and Emperor Huizong's paintings, her exploration in tempera, mezzotint, and rubbing, where not only do viewers discover her retrospect for classical texts and images but also her vision for each painting in its title. For example, A River of Wind references a classic kunqu piece from the Ming Dynasty, or ancient official’s title, Great Minister, and other evocative titles such as Capturing the Moon and Satellite that stimulate one's imagination. For the artist, this exhibition is conceived as a music album.


Zhang Wenjuan is not evasive of the subject of flora and fauna’s longstanding history but attempts to bring forth a fresh visual sensibility through her acute perceptions, with works that straddle between representation and abstraction. From a botanical point of view, her attention to detail is not in pursuit of accuracy, but what the artist claims as rending an “atmosphere” or “breath,” made evident in her formal composition and free-running color pigments. 


With a background in printmaking, Zhang Wenjuan has cultivated a habit of working in multiple layers in her mind. The process of drafting, engraving, and reprinting inherently differ from painting primarily led by the artist's willful collaboration of mind and hand, by the same token, a process that has nurtured Zhang's calm and meticulous habits. In this exhibition, we'd discover illusory mirror images of flower arrangements where foreground and background are linked together through geometric forms and color and light transitions. The artist conceives these approaches as constructed foregrounds and color arrangements that extend her sensibilities emanated from the foreground, which renders into either serene or dynamic structures.


Of course, apparent abstraction does not necessarily suggest the absence of representation in paintings. The way we perceive nature often depends on those factors that influence our perception. In an age of image overload, the ubiquitous photographic images would inevitably saturate our consciousness with visual memories. Zhang Wenjuan's unique close-up perspectives allow us to recall traces of modern photographic aesthetics. Whereas clusters of floating duckweed and flowers float on the water's surface constructed by brush strokes, looking down at the soil nourishing the flower pots seems to interrogate the roots of life. Zhang Wenjuan's flowers are often rootless; they are entangled with branches and leaves but, in concert with butterflies and birds, enhance their momentary vibrance. In particular, the pedals in Capturing the Moon seem to self-illuminate. With countless ways of interpreting a work of art, the framework for art criticism can be diverse; in the same vein, what remains invisible in these perceptible flowers is left for the viewers to discover.