Born in Wuhan in the Hubei Province in 1964, Fanzhi grew up during the Cultural Revolution and went on to graduate from the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts. Heavily influenced by German Expressionism and Chinese painterly traditions, Fanzhi is best known for imbuing his works with psychological and political intensity.
Moving to Beijing in the early 1990s, Fanzhi responded to his new environment with the Mask paintings. The characters appear to be painted from a distance, wearing the mask as a metaphor for the sense of loneliness behind ‘putting on a brave face’. The use of a palette knife adds a blurriness, essentially masking the painting as a whole; the lighting is not from an obvious source, isolating the protagonists within their repressed emotion; the fixed expressions are symbolic of stunted self-realisation.
Fanzhi currently lives and works in Beijing.