“You could say each line represents a different thought—so no two lines are the same.”

Born 1981, Fuzhou, Fujian. Lives and works in Beijing

Zhang Tingqun describes his exquisite “net” paintings as records of his thoughts. To avoid interfering with viewers’ responses to the works, he titles them simply with dates—“the periods when I had these thoughts”. Making the lines, which he does with a Chinese calligraphy brush, is for him “just like keeping a diary. It shows what’s in my mind.” His “entries”, however, exist in multiple dimensions: the lines are made in various colours, applied with a variety of pens and brushes, and overpainted in layers in a stop-start process that can take months to complete. That his images evoke rippling water or starry constellations is no accident: as Zhang Tingqun puts it, “My earlier works focused on the external world. Now I combine nature and the mind. When people see my works, I hope they start thinking about life and nature.” A keen student of Buddhism and Daoism, he sees painting as both spiritual discipline and ultimate release: “I feel no restrictions,” he says. “When I paint, there are no other thoughts in my head—it’s purely self-reflection and meditation. It cleanses and purifies my mind.”

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