Interview: Zhang Pingcheng
Zhang Pingcheng (b. 1992) is an artist born in Wuxi, China, based in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
What was your upbringing?
In my home town, Wuxi is known for its Jiangnan-style garden. I was living near a large lake called Taihu Lake and have been looking at the garden’s roof tile. In my memory, this blue roof tile in my hometown is very fresh, as if it were holding and staying at the meeting point of the sky forever. I was trying to search for and recall the original pattern of it by mixing the outline of the roof tile with elements of the curved lines in my recent work.
When you grew up, what was your interest as a child/adult?
I have always liked drawing pictures since I was a child. I could feel the joy or confidence when I was drawing. I also like watching movies. Recently, I have often thought that movies are interesting. A movie is like a fusion of several art forms. When I watch old Japanese films, there is often some garden, temple, or Karesansui*1 that makes me want to understand and feel the quiet, simple, and unique candid thoughts of the space.
How did your career as an artist begin?
Before I entered university, I painted many realistic-style paintings. What is art? I did not know. When I was in my sophomore year, I was painting, taking notes with professors, and confused. But one afternoon under the blue sky, I suddenly started feeling like, “I want to paint my own!” or “I want to paint something that only I can do!” Since then, I have been able to paint without being worried.
What is your inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from nature. Astral bodies, mountains, rivers, leaves, trees, and animals—all of the things that nature has created—will be my inspiration. For example, when you are looking at the river, you will start to vaguely see rocks or water leaves existing in the river. It is vacantly there but not clearly visible. There is a river next to my house, and I noticed animals like white herons and turtles. I thought about what a slow life they have and imagined my own future. I could see the sky or trees, or sometimes I could see my face because water reflected different kinds of views. I observed the unstable, shaky water of the river and its movements many times but still could not understand them. I imitated the movements of the river several times and tried to paint. I use water to paint. Water has fluid elements that cannot be controlled. When I mix it with paint and paint on the canvas, water will move around unexpectedly because of gravity or wind. At the end, water will evaporate, so that not only the paint on the canvas exists but also the echo and trace of the movements of the water with the paint. Nature creates us, and we create our own natures.
Who is your favorite artist?
I am fascinated by minimalism and mono-ha after the 1950s. And especially, I like Robert Ryman and Nobuo Sekine. At a glance, Robert Ryman says that there is only white paint or Nobuo Sekine’s work that only looks like a soil cylinder. These simple expressions of artwork contain a deep exploration of space and materials and continuous pursuit of the creativity and form of art.
What excites/fascinates you the most when you create your work?
For me, I need to observe daily life to create artwork. I get excited when I find something. For example, I like drawing with a pencil. One of the fantastic characteristics of a pencil is that I can erase lines with an eraser. But there is still a trace of it after being erased, and one day that “trace” woke me up. When you are drawing with a pencil, that line is erasable when it is right after it is drawn, but after a week or two, it will be harder to erase. I guess the pencil lines will be observed on the paper or canvas. I would like to keep living by finding interesting compositions, new thoughts or ideas, and unseen skies. I found a warm, pure sky recently on the reflection of the river by my house.
Born in 1992, in Wuxi, China. Graduated from Nagoya Zokei University, Faculty of Art and Design, Western Painting Course. Completed master’s program at Tama Art University, majoring in oil painting.