Xun Nian “Sidney” Zhang: Combining Chinese Culture and Western Art
By Bob Tagert
Local Springfield resident Xun Nian “Sidney” Zhang came to our attention in a very round-about way. A former “Personality Profile” subject, Jamey Turner, called the office and said he had someone he thought would be a good profile. Many of you have watched/heard Jamey perform down near the Torpedo Factory with his brandy snifters of all sizes full of water at different levels. He does make some beautiful music in a very creative way. I have known Jamey for over 20 years – and he is sort of a local icon -so I decided he probably made a good recommendation. Let me introduce you to Sidney.
Sidney was born Xun Nian Zhang in Shanghai, China in 1947. When he was 13 years old, he attended Shanghai Jian An Qu youth art school where he received art training which was influenced by 19th century western academic teaching by Mr. Zhang Ming Yan from 1960 to 1962.
Zhang was ordered to be a farmer and construction worker due to China’s political movement “culture revolution” from 1968 to 1980. During that time, his works were often selected to art exhibitions and published by art press in Shanghai. . He told me that during this time he painted great scenes from China’s revolution. Their purpose was to reflect the political spirit of the revolution and the times, and also to express his own individualism. He worked as an illustrator for Shanghai Xim Mine Evening News from 1981 to 1988.
In 1988, Zhang was awarded the Fellowship from Savannah College of art and design and came to the USA to pursue a M.F.A. degree. He tells me that he spoke hardly a word of English when he arrived and it took some doing to get a command of our language in a very short period of time. This is also about the time he decided that he would go by “Sidney” since his counterparts had a difficult time pronouncing his given name.
He graduated in 1991. He said he loved being in the south and looks forward to moving back there some day. He has had several art shows in Savannah, Atlanta, New York and Shanghai in the past few years. Zhang tells me that his artwork has matured over the years from a cool illustrative style to a more warm and romantic style. He strives to display not only a very high standard of excellence, but also has a gift for expressing his aesthetic feelings about art. I am not an art critic but according to my research, sources say “Zhangs paintings have revealed a tremendous concern for method, content and craftsmanship. He is profound in his understanding of Chinese aesthetics and is unique in conveying his always magnificent conceptions by combining Chinese culture with western art language of his own”
After much time in the south and traveling around displaying his art, Zhang settled down in the Springfield area. He tells me that now that he is in his “older” years painting allows him to express what he sees and feels. He says, “I try to express an atmosphere that is filled with tranquility and soft beauty.” Sidney currently works out of his Virginia studio.
We hope that you enjoy the few images that appear with this column. We are hoping that we will have his art appear on the cover of a future issue. If you would like to see his paintings and meet him in person, he will be exhibiting his art at the Arts Club of Washington from September 4th to the 26th. The exhibit reception will be Friday, September 11 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.