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Zhang Yunyao, Relations, 2020.
Photo: Courtesy of the Artist, Galerie Marguo, Paris and Don Gallery, Shanghai

Next Big Things: Zhang Yunyao

The young Chinese artist creates mystifying drawings that hearken back to a non-digital world

Zhang Yunyao. Photo: Thomas Block Humery, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Marguo

From his studio outside Shanghai, Zhang Yunyao creates mystifying drawings that hearken back to a non-digital world, when imagery took more than a click to make. With works exhibited at the Watou Arts Festival in Belgium and the Musée Fenaille in Rodez, France, in 2021, the artist has garnered attention and praise for his large-scale works defined by their intensely intricate detail. The hazy depictions, often rendered in graphite and pastel on felt, can appear confusing on first look, reminiscent of a photographic double exposure, but as one focuses, writhing bodies and haunting faces emerge. 

Material world: “Felt, a textile not intended for painting, is the main medium for my work. I let the material and its special properties guide me, dictating that the process be precise and slow.” 

Zhang Yunyao, A Figure,, 2020. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist, Galerie Marguo, Paris and Don Gallery, Shanghai

Creative process: “Being humble and patient is a requisite of turning my ideas into paintings.” 

Zhang Yunyao, Floating II, 2020. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist, Galerie Marguo, Paris and Don Gallery, Shanghai

“I am so impressed by Zhang’s use of different materials on felt as well as his references to Greek mythology. The work he presented this summer in Rodez was particularly moving.”

Luis Laplace

Zhang Yunyao, Emotion Study (quadriptych), 2020. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist, Galerie Marguo, Paris and Don Gallery, Shanghai

Zhang Yunyao, Emotion Study (quadriptych), 2020. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist, Galerie Marguo, Paris and Don Gallery, Shanghai

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2021 Winter Issue under the headline “Next Big Things.” Subscribe to the magazine.

Click here to see the full list of “Next Big Things.” 

Cover: Zhang Yunyao, Relations, 2020.
Photo: Courtesy of the Artist, Galerie Marguo, Paris and Don Gallery, Shanghai

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