The 1985 movement is multiple, with groups of artists in all major cities. The common point is their total opposition to the official art of political propaganda. The corollary is the expression by painting of new messages resolutely inspired by the contradictions of modern life. The groups communicate together and the first major exhibitions, wandering or located, are managed before the end of that first year.
The new wave of 1985 came out of nothingness. It was previously impossible for an artist to acquire the necessary equipment and such a situation was as effective for the central government as the implementation of its severe censorship. The underground art under Maoism and early post-Maoism was indeed of poor technical quality and the permanent threat against the artists had concentrated their creativity on political claiming.
Zhang Peili led the group of Hangzhou. He appreciated the risk of sentimentality. The faces of his characters are blurred or erased, not allowing the likeness to a real person nor the expression of an emotion or even of an impassivity, on the opposite to Zhang Xiaogang for example. He probably contributed to inspire the hidden portraits of Zeng Fanzhi.
In 1985, Zhang Peili painted bathers in a pool, ready to jump, or swimming, or floating. The water-filled basin is the new world that welcomes their future.
On October 5 in Hong Kong, Poly Auction sells Midsummer Swimmers, lot 209 shown on the third page of the press release. This oil on canvas 173 x 170 cm, a very large size for this artist, was selected for the seminal exhibition of his group in December 1985 in Hangzhou. The four young men in bathing suits symbolize the four founders of the group.
Zhang Peili's career as a painter was short. Seeking more up-to-date means of expression, he is considered since 1994 as the pioneer and master of Chinese video art.