2020 is the Year of the Rat in Chinese horoscope, which marks the start of a new cycle. Due to this, Hennessy for the first time commissioned Zhang Huan to complete a monumental piece of artwork, called Eaux-de-vie, in addition to the design of its special Chinese New Year edition.
As Hennessy and Zhang Huan became better acquainted, they found a kindred spirit in each other. For both the Cognac house and the artist, modernity means looking for innovation opportunity while respecting the tradition. Hennessy has been defined by the sense of adventure since its establishment, and yet it has upheld the tradition of transmitting savoir-faire for eight generations – a unique feat in the history of cognac. Zhang Huan came into his own as an emerging artist while living in New York City, in the 90s.
Drawing on his experience as a foreigner in the United States, Zhang Huan imbues his work with travel experiences. ‘Being abroad gave me a deeper understanding of my tradition, perhaps because I had to see myself from far away’, he says. “I believe it is meaningful for Chinese culture and Western culture to integrate with each other, which is why I strived to incorporate the sense of movement in this work. We never know where life may take us, but I do believe that everything happened in the past leads up to the present. This is what I would like to express in my artwork.”
For the Hennessy commission, Zhang Huan sought to create an artwork depicting a sense of joy and celebration as well as implying the essential mediation during every New Year. “Making art is using an object to express inner thought, or spiritual side”, the artist explains. ‘Eaux-de-vie is planned as a natural and living expression’.
Like a vibrant and resonant dreamscape, Zhang Huan’s ’Eaux-de-vie’ captures a universal spirit. The more than 5-meter long original painting was inspired by Hennessy’s world famous library of eaux-de-vie, which is explained by the artist as a mystical metaphor with various meanings.
Distilled through the artist’s signature visual language, Hennessy’s precious eaux-de-vie appears like a lot of individual cellules coming together as a whole. Upon closer viewing, red lantern, grape and amber cognac become more apparent in each cellule. The longer you gaze at the work, the more lively cellules you can perceive. They float freely in the painting implying the place of each individual in the universe. A strong color palette emphasizes the joyful mood of this season.
The special Chinese New Year edition of the Hennessy collection by Zhang Huan will be available from January 2020.
ABOUT ZHANG HUAN
Born in Anyang, Henan, China, in 1965, Zhang Huan is one of the most important contemporary artists today. Since he burst onto the international art scene in the 90s by staging performance in art events in the New York City, he has become equally well known in the field of monumental sculpture and painting, particularly due to his innovative use of mediums, such as incense ash. Integrating Western artistic techniques and concepts into traditional Chinese cultural production is the core idea of his art. Zhang Huan is represented by one of the world’s most prestigious galleries, the PACE Gallery. He is based in Shanghai.