Zhang Jian is an artist from Beijing. He was born, educated and still works and lives in the capital and his paintings are devoted to the city.
His first solo exhibition in Shanghai is being held in the Aura Gallery, on the fifth floor of a warehouse on Dongdaming Lu, overlooking the Huangpu River.
The nearly 20 oil paintings on exhibition are all about Beijing. "They are the scenes I see in everyday life, a glimpse caught when passing by," said the 35-year-old artist. Most of the works on show have this unified tone of transitoriness and uncertainty.
Zhang used to invite models to act out some scenes he had thought up while he took pictures of them. Later, he would pick through the pictures, looking for the momentary movements that he found interesting. Then he would paint the scenes onto canvas in a realistic style. His "Green Tea" was done this way.
He gradually abandoned this approach, feeling it was too contrived and that the results looked too much like photography.
Now he carries a camera around with him in his travels about the city and photographs scenes that interest him. They are the familiar sights of his daily life -- star-rated hotels, the Tian'anmen, broad streets lit up at night and the lakes around the Forbidden City.
Either because of his familiarity with his native city or perhaps as a reflection of his personality, his paintings are all done in muted tones, many in black and white.
Several paintings depict swimmers in lakes with the swimmer seen as a little wave on the water.
"You know how people feel in the water," said Zhang. "You can't reach the bottom or the sky. You are neither here nor there without control of yourself."
This feeling of uncertainty and insecurity surely belongs to the 1970s generation of Chinese youth, and Zhang fits roughly into that category.
(Shanghai Star February 28, 2003)