Calligraphy and contemporary art: Hongyu Zhang (3/3)

03 April 2017

Calligraphy and contemporary art: 3 questions for Hongyu Zhang

Three of the gallery's artists derive their pictorial and/or philosophical resources from calligraphy, a major art-form from the Far East and source of all other forms of expression. In this series of 3 articles we have asked each artist about the origin and the nature of this influence. Today: Hongyu Zhang.


No.160 (2012), Hongyu Zhang. Ink, charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 150 x 100 cm.

Born in 1981 in the vast interior of Mongolia, Hongyu Zhang came to France at the age of 23 to further his studies. He attended the Versailles School of Fine Arts. The apprenticeship he followed with his uncle as a youngster allowed him to master the art of calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting. Ever since he has remained faithful to China ink, which he uses together with materials and techniques belonging to western art. "I work with lines" he says evoking this heritage : "each line has its own life and all the lines together - with their power, their respective movements and rhythms - make up an energetic space."

How important are Chinese Calligraphy techniques to your work?

The influence of calligraphy is one of the most important elements in my work. When I was 7 years old I started my apprenticeship, in Mongolia, and for me, calligraphy - with China ink - represents the most essential element of Chinese culture. When I do a portrait, with every line I draw and every brush stroke I apply the principles of calligraphy.


Left: No.174 (2013), Hongyu Zhang. Indian ink and charcoal on Kraft paper mounted on canvas, 100 x 65 cm.
Right: No.176 (2013), Hongyu Zhang. Indian ink and charcoal on Kraft paper mounted on canvas, 100 x 65 cm.


What part of calligraphy's expressive and pictorial resources interests you?

Calligraphy is an art form which aims at ones own concentration and equilibrium. It doesn't only consist of the representation of the subject's exterior aspect, but also of the capturing of its inner most essence.

How did you acquire these techniques? And how do you associate them with western painting techniques?

I often practice calligraphy to maintain a balance between body and mind. When I incorporate it into my painting, I concentrate on every single line which has to have an existence, a power and an aesthetic of its own. Lines are always the most important element of my creations. I always use China ink together with acrylic, pastels, oil paints etc. I work on various different mediums placed on the floor : paper, canvas, wood, cardboard etc.


Tribute to Michelangelo I (2012), Hongyu Zhang. Indian Ink, pastel, acrylic and engraving on cardboard. 148 x 112 cm.

To find out more about Hongyu Zhang :
> Read another interview with Hongyu Zhang
> View our video interview in his Parisian workshop
> View all his works for sale on Artistics

In the same series:
> Calligraphy and contemporary art : 3 questions for Hachiro Kanno
> Calligraphy and contemporary art : 3 questions for Lumi Mizutani