A digital archive of Asian/Asian American contemporary art history

Zheng, Lianjie

Other Names: 郑连杰

Artist Website

"Under the influence of my father, I began to study Chinese calligraphy, poetry, and traditional painting at a very early age. During the Cultural Revolution my father was labeled a 'rightist' and sent to the countryside for many years. Given my father’s misfortune, our family’s economic circumstances were indeed dire. Through the support of my older brothers and sisters, though, I was able to begin painting lessons during childhood.

While attending middle and high school, I never considered myself to be an obedient student. According to the standards of those highly-politicized times, I was not the kind of student that teachers and schools liked. As a result, I was often excluded from school activities, giving me much more free time than my peers. I spent this time in the local branch of the public library exploring the world I was so eager to know---that of Eastern art and philosophy.

The curriculum of academic institutions did not seem relevant to my life at the time. I was especially opposed to the prevailing maxim of 'art serving politics' promoted in the highly conservative formal schools of fine arts. For these reasons, I decided to abandon my dream of entering an institution for the study of art. Art is essentially an individualistic act---and the pursuit of artistic freedom, one of my most strongly-held ideals…

In August 1990, the DaQian Gallery in Beijing held a solo exhibtion of my works, 'Ink Revolution'. Two hours before the scheduled opening, the gallery received notification from the local police station that my exhibition could not be shown. More than 100 people who had already gathered for the opening were turned away without any explantion. That day was my 28th birthday, and a slow autumn rain had been falling continuously. My mood was one with the weather---damp.

For an independent artist, to remain outside the art establishment yet continue to express one’s views on society, culture, and politics in the face of intervention by the authorities, there is a price to pay."

Zheng Lianjie, Excerpts from his Career Narrative

Gallery of Selected Works