Zhang Yibo

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 November, 2000, 12:00am

Exhibition: J Gallery, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 3 Connaught Road, Central. 10am-10pm Mon-Sat; 11am-7pm Sun and public holidays. Tel: 2369 9062. Until Nov 14.

The roaring market in Chinese oil paintings of the mid-80s may have become a little tarnished of late thanks to doubts about the long-lasting value of pictures of farming lasses captured fresh from tilling the fields with nails intact, faces pale and dressed in exquisite costumes that certainly cost more than a harvest of potatoes. But America continues to buy into this romanticised view of the mainland and right up there as one of the top earners is Zhang Yibo. As if in proof of his worth, one of his paintings was stolen a few years ago during an exhibition in Malaysia. Catch this gild-edged investment at J Gallery for the next fortnight.

Zhang's worthy porcelain maidens take Vermeer-like postures, backlit in Georges de la Tour style. 'I go for the essence of beauty as embodied in the female form - the virtues of femininity and traditional values,' says the Beijing-born artist, the younger of two boys of teacher parents.

Li Baoping, Zhang's wife, often sits for him in the month it takes to complete most portraits. Often his women are pictured in exotic tribal costumes such as those of the Miao and Yao herdsmen, although in a wild moment, he has sometimes gone for the modern Beijing working girl in simple blouse and pleated skirt.

Whatever the costume, they tend to share the same faces: classical Han Chinese (more than a touch of Gong Li) and they all share a look that distinguishes this type of painting - timeless facial expressions, subjects quite detached so that the viewer becomes a bit of a voyeur, a backdrop that is inevitably antique furniture.

There's that candle light aura, too. Zhang's chiaroscuro technique bathes his sitters in hues from passionate red intensity to mysterious yellow pallor. What more could a girl ask for?



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