Before reading about the artist and his intent, I wanted to look at these pieces and relive what I thought about them. They are portraits that are slightly distorted, adding an otherworldly air to the subject, something hinting at horror. The features are muted, smeared but still beautiful.
The Sichuan School, from where Zhao Nengzhi springs, has a common thread running through it, "scar art." It is something I cannot claim to actually grasp, this mult-generatlonal art movement, little known in the West..
Indeed Nengzhi is considered one of the "Memory Keepers" of the "New Scar" movement. His work is divided into a number of periods. The Crowd Wandering on the Streets series (1992) is where the artists sought to make himself one of the "others," one of the multitude wandering about the boulevards of the world. In 1997 he began his Facial Expression and Face series. This work was more flat and representational than previous work but they also are distant from realism or portraiture. The figures are like cryptographs the viewer must figure out.