In 2001, Finger Print (which can be traced back as early as 1991) became Zhang Yu’s new series of artworks. A finger print is representation of one’s identity and existence, as well as a symbol of a promise and contract in traditional terms in Chinese culture. As the nation and society underwent dramatic changes over time, the meaning of fingerprints from the past has been dissolved and traditional paintings from the past also became out of place in today’s society. Starting with one’s own practice, searching for the key of self-healing has become Zhang Yu’s path in pursuit of self-renewal, launching a long practice on the Finger Print series.
Zhang Yu challenges the tools of traditional ink and brushes, using one’s own hand to replace the brush. Unlike the so-called ‘finger painting,’ he uses nail polish and water to replace ink as ‘paint,’ allowing the most original forms of the fingerprints to be shown through its medium. He does not limit himself with the traditional materials such as rice paper, but uses glass as his canvas. The compounding variables constitute Zhang Yu’s individual medium that subverts the fundamental concept of the painting; he rejects the construction of the imagery by disrupting or even without considering the conventional composition of traditional ink painting. He commences at any place on the image and completes it at random, constantly repeating the motion of ‘pressing,’ and what is left on the surface is the evidence of the pressing while establishing a way of recording performance on ‘canvas’ that is different from video art.
Such rebellion and subversion are the motivation propelling Zhang Yu to continue exploring the art in his heart. For Zhang Yu, visual art is in parallel with the development of human civilization, the mission of the artist is to point cultural spirit towards the core of artistic thinking through one’s own language. For the artist, Finger Print is a cultural behavior which confirms the individual identity and a way to express China’s identity as a whole. Since ink-and-wash painting is the classic Chinese art, the artist chose to use the method. In the oriental culture of ‘one gives birth to two, two gives birth to three, three gives birth to all’ disperses through the performance of fingerprint on rice paper which becomes the genuine oriental approach to represent Chinese culture within the Chinese context of the new visual space created.
Finger Print is Zhang Yu’s creative field of self-invention as well as a medium that connects the self and the outer world. In the new realm created through the various depths of traces on rice paper and light shadows, the oriental spirit is highlighted through the small fingerprints, condensing the weight of life and time, suggesting the immensity of the universe.