Watch as he works: Zhang Enli hits London

Published 21 August 2018

Renowned Chinese artist Zhang Enli will make a site-specific installation in the RA’s Life Room, in an open studio setting where the public can watch him work.

  • Over 5,000 miles away from his working space in the Moganshan Road art district of Shanghai, Zhang Enli is setting up a studio in the historic Life Room of the RA Schools – and the celebrated Chinese painter is opening the doors of his temporary atelier to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until 16 September.

    Zhang is known for his large-scale painting installations, or “space paintings”, where he covers walls, ceiling and floor of empty interiors with abstract, swirling washes of paint (The Box, 2014, above). During his Life Room residency, the artist plans to create a site-specific installation responding, in his words, to “this renowned art academy’s rich history”, as well as a series of new wall-hung paintings. On canvas, Zhang uses muted tones and translucent washes of oil paint to depict images of everyday objects like rope, kitchen sinks and cardboard boxes, magnifying fragments and distorting their scale. “I hope people will see something new and different this time. In the open-studio setting, people will also get to see my process.” On earlier open days the public will witness the artist at work; during the final weekend of the residency (15–16 Sep), Zhang will present his finished installation and paintings.

  • , Portrait of Zhang Enli

    Portrait of Zhang Enli

    Photo Alastair Levy.

  • The month-long residency has been organised by the RA Schools and the K11 Art Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that supports the promotion of Chinese contemporary art. Zhang was drawn to the Life Room’s historic sculpture casts and 18th-century semi-circular benches as much as the natural light flooding in from the north. “I have always been curious about making works in a formal art school setting,” he says, “and the fixtures of the room create an ambience that attracts me. The fact that it is a drawing room also means that it makes sense to share my process of creation here.”