artnet Asks: Chinese Artist Zhang Dali

The politically minded artist is inspired by "the reality of my life."

Zhang Dali Photo: by __, courtesy of the artist and Klein Sun Gallery.

After finishing school at the Beijing Academy of Art & Design, Chinese artist Zhang Dali traveled to Italy, where he discovered graffiti art. Coming back to Beijing, Zhang appropriated the tactics of street art, completing 2,000 humongous profiles of himself alongside painted depictions of Beijing city officials, called chai characters, making him the most well-known (and only) graffiti artist in Beijing in the 1990s. Since his street depictions, Zhang’s body of work has grown in variety of material and form, all the while sticking to the subject matter of Chinese politics. His suspended Chinese Offspring resin sculptures bring a tactile and physical reality to the uncertainty of life for Chinese immigrant workers. Zhang was featured on the cover of Time magazine, and has exhibited his work internationally, including at the Gwangju Biennale in Korea and the International Center for Photography in New York. Zhang lives and works in Beijing.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I started to learn painting when I was seven, and I decided to be an artist at 12.

Zhang Dali, Chinese Offspring (2003) Fiberglass Photo: courtesy of the artist and Klein Sun Gallery.

Zhang Dali, Chinese Offspring (2003)
Fiberglass
Photo courtesy of the artist and Klein Sun Gallery.

What inspires you?
The reality of my life.

Zhang Dali, AK-47 (H9) (2008) Acrylic on vinyl118 1/8 x 100 3/8 in. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Klein Sun Gallery.

Zhang Dali, AK-47 (H9) (2008)
Acrylic on vinyl 118 1/8 x 100 3/8 in.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Klein Sun Gallery.

If you could own any work of modern or contemporary art, what would it be?
A work of Anish Kapoor, his thinking and mine are the complete opposite.

Zhang Dali, Square-Sketch No. 4, 2014 Acrylic on canvas, 39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Klein Sun Gallery.

Zhang Dali, Square-Sketch No. 4 (2014)
Acrylic on canvas 39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Klein Sun Gallery.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a series called Square, it’s about politics.

When not making art, what do you like to do? 
I read Chinese classics.


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