Ask Morgana 143: Zhang Yibo
What I like about the work of Zhang Yibo (1966-) is not that he has painted a handful of nudes. I am in fact drawn to the way he shows candlelight. Illumination by candle is something we are no longer familiar with, it is no longer part of our daily lives. Being missing from our environment it is missing from our psychology. For a modern painter to attempt to depict something lit by a candle, therefore, he needs not simply an ability of artistic technique but a step out of his head. I compare Zhang’s work to that of a painter whom I greatly admire – Godfried Schalken (1643-1706) – and whose environment did include candlelight.
Zhang Yibo is another – I could almost say yet another – Chinese realist painter currently working. Yet I am going to assert that of the three examples of his work below, only (3) is a truly realist painting, for all that its technique recalls impressionism. in items (1) and (2) there is something else going on. This is why I often quarrel with the classification of ‘realist’ in the modern context, and insist that many painters so classified are in fact manifesting romanticism in their work. What do you think?
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