#theTALKS – Chinese Graffiti Artist Zhang Dali

In this LUSH TALKS session, I am very grateful to talk to China’s renowned graffiti artist Zhang Dali (represented by Pekin Fine Arts), who shared a very personal yet down-to-earth views on art and shared his humble experiences with it. I am personally touched by how he transformed himself as an artist, and that we shared similar way of getting out of a tough situation.
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 The artist himself.
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When was the time you decided to be an artist? Was there a particular moment that made you take this path? 
When I was 12 I started to learn painting, at the Fine Arts class at elementary school, I used to draw figures and decorative characters on the blackboard, it was used as a notice board. At 14 I decided I wanted to be a painter, at the time in China there wasn’t any idea of an artist as an independent professional career, the so called painters were also employees of a government work unit and cooperated with the government in any work related to propaganda.
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As for the real artist, we didn’t know there was such a profession. My parents were both workers at a government owned factory, in 1970, because of the Zhengbao Island war incident, my parents’ factory was transferred from Harbin to Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi Province. Jingdezhen is a city with a long historical tradition of porcelain manual production. I could see the patterns and drawings of many workshops, porcelain artifacts were everywhere, right on the streets, maybe I was influenced by them.
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Zhang Dali and guests at his “Under the Sky” solo exhibition at Pekin Fine Arts (HK)
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What is “art” to you?

“Art” is a device subaltern to thought, through art I pursue a higher “way” (dao). This kind of “way” is the infinite essence of life, it’s the place were our spirit can find its sustenance.

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To you personally, has the meaning “art’ changed before and after your education in Italy? 
This type of change was that I learned how I could use “art” in better ways to express what I want. There are no limits in the means one can use, the subjects widen the field even more, though enlarge freedom. Maybe all these have a deep relationship with my life experience. 
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His personal work studio in Beijing
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Name one favourite word.
Why
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What does this word mean to you? Does it relate to any past stories?
Why. I like to ask “why” in my heart. I know this makes a lot of people not happy, I don’t like the answers other people give me, in fact I don’t believe the answers they give me. The education we received was that we had to listen and follow orders, but I’m not in a military, and I don’t like final decisions taken by the collective for me, because there are many possibilities.
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Toughest moments? How did you get through it?
When I can’t overcome myself and can’t compromise. I shut the door and rest, or hide for a while to read books.
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最喜欢的地方,我的院子
This is his personal favourite spot – his backyard at home.
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What advice would you give to the new artists/ creatives?
I don’t feel old, if people’s life has four seasons, before 80 it’s always spring. I, as any other person, have to face one problem, which is the equilibrium between our inside, our hearts, and the world reality, from this we have to find the force to create. Most of the time, in our life, reality is not ideal, but we can’t escape.
工具
Great pick for his favourite work tool!
 
Any projects coming up? Personal, art, or charity projects?
I’m working on a new series of works, but I don’t want to reveal now. My schedule of exhibitions is very busy, in September there will be a retrospective exhibition at the United Museum in Wuhan, there will be over 400 works from my early works up to the present. I don’t do much charity, this system is not so perfected in China, I don’t believe that what I give will arrive in the hands of those to whom I want to give.
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Describe yourself in 3 words.
Risk-taking, self confident, brave.
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Zhang Dali’s exhibition happening now, details as follows.
After all, it’s always about acknowledging and self-awakening to create and inspire. It is up to yourself if you would like to take that very first step to try and work on it. It is never too late, no matter when you start this journey.
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Zhang Dali‘s solo exhibition Under the Sky
from now till 12th September 2015
16/f, Union Industrial Building,
48 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
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xxx
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As a daughter of an entrepreneur and being one herself, Grace has lived and learned all sides of creating and growing businesses. She is excited to bring all that life experience as well as 7 years of crafting content to G Edition, her very own edition of experience sharing in work and travel. She is a full-time bag designer and manufacturer, part-time traveler, and a lover of creative crafts.

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