Zhang Enli emerged onto the art scene in the 1990s when he was most associated with symbolic, figurative paintings. Following this, he embarked on a series of quotidian objects treated sensitively and beautifully – whether containers, wires or hoses – these were imbued with their own personal stories, expressive of people in the associated utilities and desires they represented.

From here the artist’s gaze turned to the outside world, urban dwellings and nature, blurring the boundaries between inside and out, as he painted trees and skies in varied colours, playing with weight, transparency and texture.

Titled ‘Faces’, the current and inaugural exhibition at Hauser & Wirth’s new location in Hong Kong will feature new paintings by Zhang Enli created in the past three decades. The nearly 100 works on view include figurative paintings from the 1990s to early 2000s and the artist’s everyday objects series from the 2000s to early 2010s, along with abstract works from the early 2010s until the present day.

These gestural canvases reflect Zhang Enli’s progression to looser, freer brushwork that has become prominent in the artist’s style in recent years and reveals the artist’s compelling and continued exploration into abstract form. While anchored in figuration with descriptive titles, Zhang Enli seeks to capture the ‘essence’ of his subjects rather than their physical representation through these works.

The artist’s progression towards abstraction carries through into this exhibition, opening up not only Zhang Enli’s creative process with a spontaneous and visceral approach, but also his subject matter into a different realm situated in thought and feeling, rather than in a tactile, truthful representation.

The collection of works in ‘Faces’ suggests that there is another invisible subject matter, as the artist has said ‘I pay attention not to the mainstream but rather the subtle things that you might ignore sometimes.’ The paintings are liberated from the chaos of contemporary culture, they don’t hint or reference specifics but instead a universal experience and a sentience, transcending a specific locale or culture through the artist’s exploration of colour, composition and emotion. In doing so, the idea of an elusive but highly palpable sensation dominates the works and when viewed these emotions can be discerned or replaced accordingly by the viewer’s own.

Hauser & Wirth Gallery website