Lacquer is a curing process that results in a finish that ranges from ultra matte to super high gloss. The word itself evokes luxury, durability and depth. On August 21st at Joy Wai Gallery, which is an art space of note on 18th Street, had a VIP preview of the latest lacquer paintings by renowned Chinese artist Wenzhi Zhang.
Arte Fuse had a great opportunity to sit down with Zhang and her daughter present to translate on what fueled her passion for this lost art. Her body of work is prolific and this series on view is going back to something what she studied in college – the traditional finishing technique of lacquering. Her work was introduced to Joy Wai, namesake owner of the gallery, by art patron & show sponsor, Michael Bolla. Zhang is thankful for Michael’s generous support and very impressed by Joy’s endless energy with her late hour studio visits. It has been quite a journey from China to the artist’s current studio space in Soho. But it is a journey that is indeed passionate as the works glimmered with such warmth.
The gold foil and background of vibrant red or even the elegant black pulsed with a deliberate nod to tradition but coupled with innovation. The resulting impact is a very lush modernism, which Zhang skillfully pulls off in layers upon layers of lacquer. The lacquer utilized by Zhang comes from the sap of a tree and unprocessed. It is not the polymer and volatile compound that’s widely used. By Zhang’s own admission that the synthetic lacquer is dead in itself while the natural one she used for her paintings is alive. It will continue to change the character of the piece, be a catalyst to enhance it and will look great as time goes on. Other abstracts on display evoked a field of patterns and the leaning brushstrokes pays homage to the art of calligraphy. The undulating sequence of certain shapes or variation of tint provides a rhythmic visual register that punctuates and fades like a well composed sonata. What the eyes swim in, the emotions also take part in the subtle nuances of the finely executed paintings in Zhang’s current lacquer series.
The real luxury here is not only the material and how it is manipulated in the paintings. As a viewer, you get seduced by the history and passions of the artist. It is the seductive glimmer that not only enriches your sight but also your heart.
Natural Lacquer Paintings by Wenzhi Zhang
Public View Dates: September 13 – October 4, 2012
Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday (12 – 7 pm) / Weekends by appt. only
Joy Wai Gallery. 122 West 18th Street. New York, NY 10011
To view the opening, please see video link: https://vimeo.com/48120281
art review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
artwork images from Joy Wai Gallery courtesy of the artist
event photos & video by: Deukyun Hwang