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Zhang Kai: Tranquil Tales

25 March - 2 April


Co-presented by Poly Auction Hong Kong and Triumph Gallery, the Chinese post-80s artist Zhang Kai’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong Tranquil Tales will be held at Poly Gallery Hong Kong from March 25 to April 2.

The exhibition assembles 15 artworks by Zhang Kai spanning from 2012 to 2024, showcasing the artist’s vision of a Tranquil Tale.  “Tranquility” has always been the emotion Zhang Kai wants to convey in his work. For him, it is also the ideal state of being in the fast-paced life of modern individuals. Zhang Kai said, modern people live a more prosperous material life compared to the past, yet their anxiety has never been relieved. Everything surrounding us is operating at a fast pace, and being amidst exacerbates anxiety, bringing people mental exhaustion and uneasiness. He is no exception. However, whenever he picks up the paintbrush and faces the canvas, he drifts into a “Tranquil” state, feeling the comfort brought by art.

The newly created works shown in this exhibition feature different subjects from Zhang Kai’s previous works. This time, the background has become the scene, while the space itself is the content. In the artworks, rose-colored light flows subtly in the tranquil rooms, and there are also church-like spaces and half-curtained artist studios.

In addition, there are plenty of floral elements in the works on display. Flowers were one of the favorite subjects of 17th- century Dutch Vanitas painters. Jan van Huysum’s floral still-life works recorded flowers blossoming at different moments. This idealized graphic scheme captured the beautiful yet ephemeral moments of flowers. As Zhang Kai gets closer to 40 years old, he becomes sensitive to time and enjoys painting flowers. Through painting flowers. Zhang Kai wants to remind himself and everyone who comes to the Tranquil Tales solo exhibition: Time flies, and we shall cherish every moment.

The cats depicted by Zhang Kai in his artworks continue to embody a unique elegance and mystery that runs through his creative works. Meanwhile, the image of rabbits frequently appears in his latest paintings, especially in the Year of the Rabbit last year. This image not only represents the artistic carrier of emotions, but also symbolizes changes in life and personal growth.

Vermeer has always been one of Zhang Kai’s favorite artists. His works seem to be a kind of language expression. Zhang Kai could discover countless layers and details in his work, which is also a kind of artistic expression. He said he can stare at his work without ever feeling bored, again and again. People need to gaze, which is perhaps one of the reasons why paintings are timeless.

Zhang Kai’s aesthetic ideals can be traced back to the Northern Song Dynasty in China, the early Renaissance in the West, and medieval painting. These periods exude an air of innocence and simplicity. Zhang Kai recalls that the paintings of these periods awakened a sense of freshness and piety when he just learned how to paint. This is his most simple and pure feeling, which he always reminds himself not to forget. Chinese paintings show a deep understanding of lines and contours. By focusing on the contours and eliminating the superficial light, shadow, and structure, what is left are the lines and contours—subtraction makes us concentrate more on the essence of things. After that, paintings shifted from foregrounding to intentionally diluting and blurring contours, yet our brain’s mechanism would make the blurred part even more visible. Through Tranquil Tales, Zhang Kai wants to return to the concern with contours, which is more of a choice of interest.


Zhang Kai was born in 1985 in Shanxi, China. He graduated from the School of Arts, Shanxi Normal University, and currently works and lives in Beijing.

In his painting, the protagonists are personified and spiritualized cats and rabbits, which present the tranquil, mysterious, and poetic atmosphere. Through the synthesis and reconstruction of the classical and the contemporary, Zhang Kai presents his thinking on time, spirit, appearance and essence, starting from his analysis of art history from the contemporary perspective, and his own aesthetic tendencies.

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