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The greatest artist has no conception
Which a single block of marble does not potentially contain within its mass,
But only a hand obedient to the mind
Can penetrate to this image.

In 2014, the United Nations reported that more than half of the world's population lives in cities. In 2050 this will expand to 66%. Despite its lower urbanization rate, Asia now hosts 53% of the world's urban population. Europe follows with 14%. (1) Just before the major art museums in New York closed their doors due to the global Covid 19 pandemic, the exhibition 'Countryside: The Future' opened in the Guggenheim Museum. Curated by world-renowned architect and urban planner Rem Koolhaas, the exhibition argued that current urban life determines large-scale and radical changes in the countryside. Data storage, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, robot automation, labor migration and the private purchase of land for ecological conservation are being explored and experimented more actively in rural areas than in the city. The exhibition was an attempt to shift the global focus on urban areas to the 98% of the earth's surface that is not a city. (2) Reluctantly, the exhibition formed a prelude to a renewed interest in what city dwellers, with their slight arrogance and somewhat limited scope, call the periphery. On the run from the COVID 19 virus, those who could afford it moved to their holiday homes in the countryside to entrench themselves for a number of months. Yet it seems an illusion to think that this is a permanent shift. Countryman Peng Zhang (China, 1990) who trained as a painter at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou has long been an advocate of the reappraisal of life in the countryside and more specifically of life in his village Shijian Cun in the region of Jinshan Zhen in Southern China. Peng is not so much interested in technological innovations in the countryside (such as Rem Koolhaas). Instead, he tries to reconnect to the countryside as it once was through his personal experiences and childhood memories. Memories of how he scratched drawings in the earth with branches, played in the fields and made toys from clay soil. His body of works tells about living with the seasons in close-knit communities, about friendship and hospitality. Although he knows from his mother's stories that the older generation was having a very difficult time, Looking back, for him it was like living in a paradise garden.  Peng Zhang has been working steadily on his gardens over the past few years. As a graduation project for his master's degree at the art academy in Den Bosch (2016 -2018), The Netherlands, he realized a garden on a canvas (placed horizontally on the ground) of pak choi, paprika and cabbage plants drawn with charcoal and combined with ceramic objects on top. In addition, he realized 'real' gardens with earth pyramids and hilly Mongolian clay yurts, wooden sculptures, drawings and patterns of vegetables, seeds, and plants in collaboration with neighbors. The fields are his artist studio, the earth is his canvas, organic matter is his material, a branch is his brush and his inspiration is rooted in rural life. He therefore proudly calls himself a farmer artist.   When he returns to Shijian Cun in 2019, Peng does a number of collaborative projects with villagers. Standing in the dried-up lake near his parents' house, Peng thinks about how he fished in the spring, swam in the summer, and played in the fall. Together with a cow, he plows lines in the landscape. With farmers and children from the area, he creates towers of traditional mud bricks and castles of clay (Cheers in Pond).  For Villagers in Memory, Peng crafts bricks by hand from the seeds of the Xanthium, a local plant. The hooks of the seed pods interlock, which ensures firmness. For Peng, this symbolizes the close relationship that the villagers had in the past when people jointly made mud bricks or performed other common tasks for the community. The Xanthium bricks are spread on the land in an orderly manner. This can be read as a metaphor for the local farmers who formed the pillars of the village community. Today the bricks come from the factory. This consumer lifestyle has seriously influenced the close relationship of the local villagers. As the younger generation moves to the city and their way of life urbanizes, the traditions are changing rapidly. The disappearance of craft techniques and traditions leave a void in the village. Peng Zhang is currently a resident (2021 -2023) at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. For the Open Studios he poured soil into large wooden containers in which he drew geometric shapes and laid patterns with small stones. He has kneaded, excavated and raised the soil into circular terraces. Lettuce plants and cress stand proudly in the ground. The indoor vegetable garden is surrounded by watercolors inspired by Chinese folktales and mythology. His watercolour and ink drawings show many animals: hares, pigs, fish, sheep, chickens. They are surrounded by repeating plants, seeds and clouds. We also see pumpkins, eggplants and carrots: the vegetables that villagers grow on their land, just enough for their own consumption. The tones are earthy and subdued, referring to the tones of the landscape in which the farmer artist grew up. It is the imagination of a nostalgic rural world full of harmony and a dash of absurdity. The Shan Hai Jing( Classic of the Mountains and Seas), a collection of ancient Chinese texts from at least 2200 years ago is one of Peng Zhang’s sources of inspiration. Just like the Iliad and the Odyssey, the foundational works of ancient Greek Literature and attributed to Homer, the Shan Han Jing is most probably a collection of stories that originated in different times and is written down by different authors. As a child Peng Zhang was read from them by his mother and father. It tells of mythical mountains, seas and mythical creatures in and it gives detailed descriptions of medicines and geological features.  Sense of Place One of the aims of the Makryammos Ephemeral Art residency is to give artists time to tap into Thassos' sense of place and to use it as inspiration in their work or thinking process. Peng Zhang’s body of work is a constant exploration into the sense of place of his village in South China. If anyone is able to explore a place, both physically and mentally it is Peng Zhang. His body of work is also a reflection on life in a small rural community before the 24-hour economy had an impact. This tension between tradition and modernization is also evident on Thasos: the hustle and bustle of tourists on one side, versus the timeless land and seascapes, and archaeological artifacts; hedonistic and fleeting summer fun versus old customs like olive harvesting; English as a world language versus local dialects, waste production as a result of the tourism sector and industrial interventions in the landscape (marble quarries) versus the rich biodiversity; abundant food buffets in resorts versus hunting traditions.  Thasos Marble For Peng Zhang, the choice for the materials he works with is linked to the identity of a place. The marble queries at Thasos are visibly dominant in the mountainous landscape. Large blocks of marble are used as roadblocks and signage, as construction material, as feet for large beach umbrellas and for all kinds of tourist paraphernalia. He was therefore immediately fascinated and inspired by the local marble. Obviously, marble has been an important material in the visual arts for centuries with renaissance artist Michelangelo as one of its famous users Marble has been mined on Thasos since prehistoric times. This makes it one of the oldest marble mining sites in Europe.  Fossils and lime mud deposited millions of years ago. The marble has formed due to the pressure of the overlying layers of rock and high temperatures. Unlike the gray marble quarried around the city of Kavala, close by but on the mainland, or the brownish marble of Delphi, the marble of Thasos is snow-white and without any veins. This makes it very suitable as a canvas for Peng's drawings.  Not willing to do any permanent intervention (as the marble quarries are already violent man-made caesuras in the landscape), preventing aggressive ownership and afraid to damage the marble Peng Zhang starts to experiment with drawings at small pieces of marble found in the landscape. He is trying out different watercolors but, as he expected, the color pigments are absorbed like a sponge into the marble causing a permanent change in color. Will he be able to find a material whereby the drawings on the marble are erased by nature itself? Can his drawing lines be removed by dew and rain and with a little help from some cleaning tools? Thasos Charcoal One of the materials Peng Zhang likes to draw with is charcoal. Because it gives off black and binds strongly to its substrate, it has been used as drawing material since prehistoric cave paintings. As a child, Peng took the coals from their wood-burning stove and drew with them on the walls. It is his first drawing material and he still uses it. It reminds him of the fires that were lit in his village in winter to keep warm and to prepare hot pots. But the fire also reminds him of dramatic events in the village and in the surrounding area. There were regular casualties as a result of fireworks explosions in nearby fireworks factories or in people's homes. Two weeks before Peng Zhang’s residency at Thasos began, there was a major fire in a pine forest in the Ypsarion Mountains between the villages of Theologos and Skala Potamia in the center of the island. It burned 277 hectares of protected nature area. While this fire was also devastating to flora and fauna, the scale of it was smaller than the 2016 forest fires caused by lightning. Due to the increased temperatures in summer as a result of global warming, the fires are easily fueled by strong winds and drought. Peng collects tree trunks and branches from the recently blackened burned forest. Contrasting and hopeful it is surrounded by life: sweet chestnuts, wild thyme, apple- and pear trees, walnuts and olives. He decides to draw with the Thasos charcoal on the eye-catcher of Makryammos; the monumental white marble blocks of the pier. Prior to this, he and a number of children conducted experiments on the marble. When he is sure that his charcoal drawings leave no traces on the blocks of marble, he starts his pièce de résistance on Thasos. Thasos iconography Inspired by the surroundings and by the local flora and fauna (peacocks!), Peng Zhang starts working on ten monumental charcoal drawings in different shades of black and gray. You can see how the sun sinks into the sea surrounded by garlands of leaves and roots, how fierce lightning illuminates the night, how birds soar above ancient Greek vases and jars, how fish swim in the mysterious underwater world. His style is playful and deliberately naive, referring to folk art and so-called primitive art such as cave paintings and carvings, which can also be found on Thasos. A lasting influence on his work is his visit to the Buddhist Mugoa Caves of Dunhuang in Gansu, during his academic period in China. The first caves were carved out around 366 when the first multicolored paintings were also created. The lack of perspective and depth, the flat and graphical style of the paintings and the full image planes are some of the elements that continue to inspire Peng Zhang. The bird that returns as a motif at the marble drawings is very characteristic in the artist's work. Peng is not only a popular boys name in China, it is a fantasy creature from Chinese folklore and mythology as well. It has been known since 300 BCE. At first it was a Kun fish that swam in the dark and deep ocean. The fish transformed into a giant mythical Peng bird who chose freedom and could fly anywhere high in the sky. It symbolizes strength, ambition and freedom. Peng Zhang usually signs his art with a small drawing of a Peng bird. The Peng bird plays the leading role in a series of 11 personal drawings called the Peng Story (20XX). Together they form a 7-meter leporello. The animals in the drawings symbolize him and his family. The horse is his brother, the sheep his sister. Peng himself is obviously a bird. In the leporello, Peng depicts childhood experiences on the coutryside such as learning to fish and swimming, doing homework in the evening by the oil lamp, being rewarded with a sticker of a flower at primary school. They also symbolize universal themes such as learning, growing, harvesting, playing and longing. For a moment he let the Peng bird fly in ultimate freedom on the island of Thasos. Large canvas painting or monumental drawing is always an ultimate physical act. Peng Zhang makes much of his work bent to the ground, like the farmers in Shijian Cun work with their faces to the earth and their backs to the sky. Also on Thasos he makes a number of drawings on marble lying horizontally. However most of them are made upright, due to the shape of the surface on which he draws. He does not sign the marbles with the usual small Peng bird, but instead with Chinese characters and English words: “Peng Zhang has a visit here”, like tourists and day trippers carve their names in cave walls or trees. The final drawings that Peng realizes on Thasos could only be seen for two days. Then they slowly fade due to dew and a heavy rain shower. The influence of the weather and the ephemeral resources always plays a major role in Peng's work. A characteristic of working with raw materials from nature is that it also reverts to it. The materials used are circular. There is no residual waste and no stress about how long the end result can be preserved (namely: not). It is and it is not. It only lives on in the imagination and in documentation. Except for the white marble. That will be there for a while.3) The number of people who have no active experiences or memories of the countryside is increasing. That is not only the feeling of Peng Zhang, but it is  underlined by the reports of the UN. Peng Zhang's work expresses an appreciation for community and for living I the moment, for a circular conception of time and a sense of place. Values ​​he finds in his memories of the village of his childhood. The importance of his work is that it can be an antidote to the idea of ​​urban man as the center of the world, to the connected idea of ongoing ​​linear, technological and economical progress. We may want to rethink what it means to rush forward and artists like Peng are important in this. The fast and dominant 24/7 economy and the associated mass consumption pattern can be contrasted with a holistic story that expresses the natural flow of life and death, the importance of fragility and resilience in the cycle of life. With a story that invites us to see ourselves as belonging to a place and a collective. As an organism that is more than merely a member of our own species. On Thasos, Peng seemed to feel like a Kun fish in the water, like a Peng Bird in the sky. Kim Knoppers Curator Makryammos Ephemeral Art residency The Makryammos Art Residency invites and supports an artists or other creative practitioners working with ephemerality at the core of their artistic practice. This means work that involves fleeting objects or expressions of time, fluctuation and transience. Ephemerality dodges the unspoken rules of the art market; there is no object to sell, no desire to monetize, the circular is preferred over the linear. The residency is considered a critical site of production. Therefore it accentuates the experiment and the processual through which the ephemeral artwork is created. The residency aims to give an artist or other creative practitioner time and space. By creating a free zone that disregards the conventions and market principles of much of the contemporary art world, it emphasizes the importance of ephemerality. The residency will help artists working in the field of ephemerality develop and sustain their creativity without material-object obligations but with an ephemeral output. The resident’s work takes place at the intersection of ephemeral art, nature and craft. ​ This text was written based on conversations with Peng Zhang during his stay on Thasos and his portfolio.



a farmer artist

Paradise Garden.O-28 details 1.jpg

Paradise Garden. O-28

soil, woodstick, vegetables.
Size variable

Recently, I have rented a garden NO.28 in Oosterplas, 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. In the garden, I play a base with soil sculptures, wood sculptures, drawings, holes, vegetable patterns. As a farmer-artist, I mostly work with raw materials from the nature: the land is my canvas, the woodsticks are my brush...

Villagers In Memory.jpg
Villagers In Memory  (details).jpg

Villagers In Memory


The community of my village was like a sturdy house, the villagers as the bricks played signifcant roles in strongly supporting the community house, and the relationship among them was very close. I remember the local people usually made mud bricks for constructing their houses when I was a kid. However, people can easily buy bricks from factories, now. This consumer lifestyle has seriously infuenced the close relationship of
the local villagers. I have made bricks with xanthium by hands in a conventional way that I learnt before by observing my neighbors’ making process. All the bricks laid out orderly in the farmland symbolize the local farmers standing upright in my memory. And the relationship among
villagers was like the hooks of xanthiums, closely hooking up with each other.


Cloud holding


ink, watercolor, pencil on

rice paper,



Cloud holding


ink, watercolor, pencil on

rice paper,




140*70cm,ink, watercolor,
pencil on rice paper, 08.2021

 Colorful World

 (drawings series)
29*29cm (all are the same)
  Watercolor, ink, pastel, pencil on

  cigarettes  box paper





My rural world is variety and colorful.

Colorful world 1.jpg
Colorful world 2.jpg

Peng Zhang (b. 1990, Jiangxi, China), currently  based in Netherlands



-*Insert Genious Title Here, Breda, The Netherlands 2019

- The 13th National Exhibition of Fine Arts, Ningbo, China 2019

- "Paradise Garden. Zhang Peng's Root, hilversum, The Netherlands 2019

- Show for nominees of the Kunst aan de Dijk Prijs 2018, KunstRai, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2019

- Paradise Garden. I-II, at Willem Twee Kunstruimte , 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands 2019

- Paradise Garden. 111, at Witte Rook, Breda, The Netherlands 2019

- “Cafeteria”- AKV/St-Joost MFA Graduation Exhibition, De Kaaihallen, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands 2018

- What Do We Dance For?, Gallery Nectar, Tbilisi/Georgia 2018

- AKV/St-Joost Master in Fine Art students Exhibition, Electron, Breda, The Netherlands 2017

- The 5th China National Youth Art Exhibition, Shanghai Oriental Art Center, Shanghai, China 2016

- The 6th Youth Art Exhibition of Zhejiang Province, Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, China 2015

- The 1st Chinese Comprehensive Material Painting Biennial, Ningbo Art Museum, Ningbo, China 2015

- Art Spring-MastersJ’ oint Exhibition of China Academy of Art, NO 1, Xihu Tiandi, Hangzhou, China 2015

- “Tong Xin Su Mei” the 13th Art Exhibition of Zhejiang Province, Zhejiang Art Museum 2015

- Xuni.Weng,the Contemporary Oil Painting Exhibition, Shimao 1, Hangzhou Art Fair, Hangzhou, China 2014

- The 14th Young Artist Discovering Program, Xihu Contemporary Art Museum, Hangzhou,China 2014

- Zhuantang Housing Demolition and Relocation Art Program, , Hangzhou,China 2012



-Nominated for the Kunst aan de Dijk Prijs 2018, The Netherlands. 2018

-Nominated for the Buning Brongers Prizes 2018, The Netherlands 2018

-Excellence Award for the painting “Shansui, Ya”, the 5th China National Youth Art Exhibition, China 2015

-Excellence Award for the painting “Reconstruction”, The 13th Youth Art Exhibition of Zhejiang Province, China 2014


Scholarships & Grants

-Young Talent Stipend, Mondriaan Fonds, The Netherlands 01.10.2019-30.09.2020

-Avans Scholarship Programme for Best Performing Non-EU Students, Avans Hogeschool, The Netherlands 2017

-The Second Prize Scholarship, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China 2010

-The E.Land Excellence Award Scholarship, E.Land Group, Hangzhou, China 2010

-The Third Prize Scholarship, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China 2009



-WITTE ROOK, Breda, The Netherlands 12.2018-01.2019



-Master of Fine Art 2016-2018

-AKV/St-Joost Art Academy's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

-Master of Fine Art - Comprehensive Material Painting 2012-2015

-China Academy of Art Hangzhou, China

-Bachelor of Fine Art - Comprehensive Material Painting 2008-2012



·Organizing Chain Presentation in Paradise Garden. O-28, at Oosterplas 04.06.2019 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

·Took the interview of Rijksacademie 22.05.2019

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

·Organizing Planting&Drawing Events, At De Graafse Akker's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

·Art Teacher (Assistant), Ds. Pierson College 11.2018 - 12.2018's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

·Assisting George Korsmit Solo Exhibition “Solo 15” at Club Solo 2018 Breda, The Netherlands

· Artist Talk at SinArts Gallery 2017 Den Haag, The Netherlands

·Teaching Painting in Jinshan Middle School (Volunteer) 2012 Pingxiang, China

·Self-organizing the Master works show in Gong Tong Ti Art Space 2011 Hangzhou, China

·Teaching Painting in Hangzhou Deaf Charity School (Volunteer) 2010 Hangzhou, China


Paradise Garden. O-28.jpg
Shapes Of Rural Life.jpg
Shapes Of Rural Life (details).jpg

Shapes Of Rural Life

Bamboo, grass, herbs
350*450*500cm, 120*150*200*260cm,

The rural life of my village was very various and abundant. The life was self- sufficient, we produced daily necessities for ourselves. We planted rice and raised fish, livestock, but, today, people can easily purchase everything online, consequently, most of the ricelands and ponds become derelict these days. I find an unused pond with water inside, which reminds me of the past scene that some frames made by farmers who raised some fishes in the pond were foating on the water for stabilizing the fish food in a certain area. Referring to the experiences and the skills I obtained before, I construct different geometric frames that float on water, which are the metaphor of the past rural life.

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