Witte de With Contemporary Art
Peili Zhang
M
Peili Zhang

Zhang Peili (b. 1957, Hangzhou) is regarded as “the father of video art in China.” Nonetheless he started out as a painter in the mid-eighties, having studied oil painting at the Zhejiang Academy in Hangzhou. His paintings have a certain hard-edge, extremely stylized and impersonal quality to them; his subjects at the time were patients in dentist chairs, and divers in swimming pools. In 1986 he, and his friend Geng Jianyi, were the principal founders of the “Pond Society” in Hangzhou, demanding a new, much more audience-oriented approach to art.

In 1988 Zhang Peili stopped painting for a while, and turned to video instead. He made China’s first ever video artwork, 30 x 30, which shows gloved hands carefully picking up and piecing together the shards of a broken mirror. During 1990 Zhang began to paint again for a while, but with a much more direct socio-critical attitude. Paintings of body-builders bear titles like: “Never forget the Party.” By 1993, Zhang turned to video for good, elaborating on his main issue: “a cynical stance, and the desire to make aggressive and deliberately tormenting art in the face of the public.”