The creative journey of artist Zang Peng began with a sketch of his uncle. When Zang found the sketch as a child, he marveled at the extreme similarity between the work and its subject.

It was the moment he began to appreciate art.

Zang was born in Datong, Shanxi in 1970s. If someone were to look at his portfolio, he might feel quite surprised about his previous works full of sorrow. Zang’s work spans many artistic media such as oils, watercolors, engravings and photography.

Oil paintings account for the highest percentage of Zang’s work. His style is highly expressive, with big blocks of contrasting black and white. Many of the images have a feeling analogous to Polaroid pictures. Viewers often find familiarity with his retrospective scenes in paintings such as Red, a red-dressed girl disappearing on other side of a black gate. The image, Zang says, was inspired on a rainy day in Beijing’s 798 Art Zone.

“There was a light shower that afternoon, and I felt peace,” Zang writes.

Typically, he leaves all interpretation up to the viewer and encourages everyone to embrace their own feeling rather than his official explanation.

“Sometimes, the over-explanation of a work narrows art to nothing but its original meaning,” Zang says. And that’s why he tries not to define his finished paintings. Most titles are short and succinct. The intention is to leave audience enough room for their imagination to run wild.

Most of his paintings depict everyday scenes – a familiar environment and eternal motif that ties together his initial inspiration, series theme and internal attitude. Zang says “days” are a marker: a spiritual token by which human pass time.

“If you carefully observe your surroundings, it seems natural to collect and store many good ideas in head,” Zang says.

When talking about the ups and downs in his career, Zang recalls two moments. He experienced a creative boom when completing Youth, his most satisfying work. But there was also a low point where financial support fell to the point at which he could hardly survive. Zang says he is grateful he could cope with that darkness by painting to connect with his inner world.

“The work On the Other Side of the Door was a miniature of my private thoughts,” Zang says. The work depicts a man holding balloons to a door full of light. It demonstrates keeping a positive attitude when life is in the shadows and people must struggle for their dreams.

“Well, it doesn’t matter what the end of those painting will be. The most important thing is I am working hard on my dream, and I won’t give up,” Zang says.

Zang says he hopes his art can open the door to larger topics such as human and life, and he looks forward to exploring more possibilities.

Karena Hu

About Karena Hu

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Karena was born with the English name Karen but decided to add an “a.” She dreamed of a career in astronomy, but bad scores in physics kept her out of the science department. She seeks other worlds in reading and writing and is a super fan of the Hunger Games trilogy.

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