Spring Festival is Coming

Zhu Jinshi


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oil on canvas
quadriptych 180 x 640 cm
References to the history of Chinese painting are found in Spring Festival is Coming, a quadriptych of vivid colour dominated by a palette of magenta, Naples yellow, green, red and turquoise, in chunks and wedges of oil paint. The colours dance across the surface in a hectic, syncopated rhythm, with areas of untouched canvas around the edges like moments of silence and stillness. Asked about the significance of the title, Zhu says he began this painting in November and finished it in February, just before Spring Festival and the celebration of the Lunar New Year. Like a scholar painter of the past, he says: ‘In traditional Chinese art, the naming of paintings depends on the artist's mood; the decision might be inspired by stormy weather, events in the world, sighs or passing thoughts’. Zhu Jinshi’s abstract canvases, with their vigorous application of swathes of brightly coloured impastoed oil paint, at first appear to be in dramatic contrast with the minimalist and restrained xuan paper installations. Yet there are also subtle references to Chinese tradition and Buddhist thought in these works. Critic and scholar Gao Minglu classified Zhu Jinshi and others as Yi Pai artists, arguing that they simultaneously integrated and challenged western theory and contemporary art practice with a uniquely Chinese form of abstraction linked to ancient cultural and philosophical traditions. Moreover, many of Zhu’s abstract works include patches of unpainted canvas: in a traditional Chinese scroll painting such empty spaces are as important as brush-marks and washes of ink; it is called liu bai, or ‘leave blank’. In contrast to this practice, though, Zhu Jinshi has likened his empty spaces to ‘smashing through the silence’.
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