As is the case in many countries the world over, depression and melancholy in China are often stigmatized. In a culture that values interpersonal balance and stoicism, individuals experiencing sorrow or depression might feel the need to appear happy socially.
Such social burdens are not projected onto the animal kingdom, since we expect animals to act as their physical nature intends. Chinese artist Qiang Zhang uses our understanding of, and sympathy for, animals to express what non-visible, internal struggles can look and feel like. Using exquisite imaginative realism through oil paints, Zhang provides the view of a moment, either the last or the first, when an animal takes its last breath or when its life ceases to exist in a way we understand. Images may be fraught with movement or still as surrender, revealing what might be lying beneath the surface of a complacent face. Through the medium of animals, the artist feels able to express dejection and mourning in a universal language that transcends cultural norms.
Qiang Zhang was born in Handan, Hebei, China in 1988. In 2016, he graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in the Western Traditional Painting Language Advanced Seminar, and now lives and works in Beijing.
Curator Yilin Li received her bachelor’s degree in visual communication design from the China University of Geosciences at Wuhan and is working toward an MBA at Cal Lutheran. She aspires to continue curating in the commercial art market.
Image: Qiang Zhang, Flow-Zebra, oil on panel, 11 x 31 inches. Courtesy of the artist.