Born in 1971 in Chenghai, Guangdong province.
Graduated from the Chinese painting department at Huaqiao University.
Graduated from the printmaking department at the Central Academy
of Fine Arts.
Currently a professional artist living with his wife and son
in Beijing, but also spends some time in Shenzhen, near Hong
2007 Works of Zeng Jianyong, Jiushi Space 798, Beijing
2007 The Header – Works of Zeng Jianyong, Times Space,
2008 Heather James Fine Art, Palm Desert, CA
2008 Rohrer Fine Art Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA
Selected Group Exhibitions
1994 China Art Student Annual Art Awards, Shenyang
2002 China Computer Graphics Festival 2002, Beijing
2003 China Computer Graphics Festival 2003, Beijing
2007 Outside Exhibition of “Art Beijing 2007”, Beijing
2007 No Living at that time, Beijing
2007 Institute of Traditional Chinese Fine Art Painting, Beijing
2008 2007 Chinese Contemporary Art Document, Beijing
2009 Artxpo New York
2009 Bohemia Galleries (UNICEF SHOW) York, England
Drawing Book “Sapiential Seed” Series, Beijing Publishing
Drawing Book “Interesting Experiment” Series, Beijing
Publishing House Group
Drawing Book “Learning Math with Albert”, Time Warner-Time
In both the Header and Spare Time series, Zeng
uses materials that are associated with traditional Chinese
painting and watercolor-handmade paper, inks, and watercolors.
However, the technique that he employs is uniquely his own.
Using two sheets of handmade paper, Zeng adheres one sheet to
a board, then takes the second sheet and paints the image on
the surface. Once the image is dry, he flips it over and adheres
it to the first sheet on the board. Thus, the image is sandwiched
between the two sheets, which have the delicate translucence
of rice paper, and the viewer sees the image through the paper.
The result is that the paintings have a luminously faded look-a
look of faraway urgency. While there is a mild obscuring of
the image, its intensity still shimmers through, accented by
a layer of black ink added to the top surface of the children's
scarves, making them pop off the canvas.
The Works of Zeng Jianyong
The Header series, a group of recent paintings
by Zeng Jianyong, refers to a term used in the People's Republic
of China to denote the head of the class-the top pupil, a child
who not only earns good grades, but respects his or her elders
and gets along well with others. The "header," held
up as an example of all-around excellence, is something that
Chinese children eagerly aspire to be. At the same time, the
existence of this lauded position highlights how much cultural
pressure there is to excel in both scholastic and social environments-pressure
that can at times become harmful and oppressive. In more extreme
cases, this pressure has led to depression and even suicide.
Zeng's paintings depict a single child or group
of children in ordinary dress against an empty, neutral background.
An armband bearing three horizontal stripes and a prominent
black scarf worn about the shoulders identifies the header.
Intended as emblems or caricatures rather than realistic portraits,
Zeng's children, while discernible from one another, all have
a distinct trademark look-ruddy marks on their skin that could
be blood stains, overly large heads, tiny noses and mouths,
and startling silver-gray eyes that look like shattered marbles.
Like Margaret Keane, whose paintings of big-eyed
children became an American pop-culture phenomenon in the 1960s,
Zeng uses his children's remarkable eyes to fix both the viewer
and the subject, providing a focal point for tension and interaction.
We look into the children's eyes to see what they see, and to
see ourselves reflected. Unlike Keane's children, however, whose
eyes are so large and clear that they seem to take the whole
world in at once, Zeng's children seem to be saddled with malfunctioning
glass eyes, perhaps introduced into their bodies following some
kind of trauma, and now dooming them to forever see the world
in some sort of skewed fashion. One wonders, what went wrong
here? The splintered eyes seem to be the origin for an entirely
splintered sensibility, which reveals itself in the bloody vein-like
markings spreading across the children's faces and arms.
Zeng's Spare Time series, which takes animals as its protagonists
instead of children, uses the same framework, but with different
effects. The faces of cats, dogs, horses, and other animals
are portrayed as though they are human, some with doleful or
angry looks, some with apparent tears streaming down their faces.
Instead of the shell-shocked, robotic look of the children,
however, these animals have lively personalities, which come
through the more one gazes at their images. They seem to act
as mirrors of our adult behaviors; just as the children have
disturbed their childhood, the animals have lost their animal
nature by interacting with us and responding to our demands.
Zeng has said that as an artist, he "treasures
the weaknesses of human nature, such as irrationality and fragility,"
and tries to tap into these qualities when making his art. The
Header series was partially inspired by Zeng's young son, whose
current experiences in primary school are reminding the artist
of his own upbringing. Stylistically, Zeng cites the influence
of Western contemporary sources. In addition to Keane, his work
can be linked to the whacked-out portraiture of Lisa Yuskavage,
John Currin, or Egon Schiele. It also has something in common
with the social criticisms of George Grosz. Zeng himself cites
the simplicity and modest charms, and perhaps the color palette,
of Italian still-life painter Giorgio Morandi as an abiding
For more infomation click Zeng Jianyong