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Zhang Enli x Hennessy: Celebrating new beginnings

Coming after a time of challenge and loss, the Year of the Tiger represents hope and augurs renewed energy and vitality. The Shanghai-based artist Zhang Enli explains why his artwork for Maison Hennessy commemorates that.

CNY22 Zhang Enli - Artist

“Poetry makes nothing happen,” W. H. Auden observed, but life without poetry is apt to be pretty bleak. For the 2022 Chinese New Year, artist Zhang Enli shows us exactly how bleak life would in fact be if it wasn’t for all those rhythmical compositions.

His vibrant artwork, 'Poetry and Wine Welcome the Tiger' celebrates the poetry, optimism, and vitality of the Chinese New Year. “The artwork is about spirit and sense over appearances; about the force of transformation, even in the tiniest details,” Enli says. Favouring abstraction over figurative representation, the artist conjures the tiger — an ancestral symbol of power, success, and confidence — with dynamic lines and vibrant colour. “While this painting may be different from traditional tiger-themed paintings, my hope is that people will intuitively recall the animal’s beauty and vitality.”

For the Year of the Tiger, he also chose to pay tribute to the peaceful beauty of the Charente River in Cognac, using it as a metaphor for transformation and the passage of time. “The Charente River left a profound impression on me,” the artist recalls after his visit to Cognac.

CNY22 Zhang Enli - Artist

Enli has a distinctive style – fluid, spontaneous and gestural – one that draws on both Eastern and Western painterly traditions.

The flowing lines, reminiscent of traditional Chinese brush painting, and the visible grid lines point to the Renaissance technique of ‘squaring up’. “The painting very naturally brings together the Year of the Tiger and Hennessy’s eaux-de-vie.” He's a master of colour and light.

When asked about his preferred way of working, Enli leans towards thin washes of paint and clear, crystalline colours with dark contrasts. “It’s through the colours and the dark stripes that one imagines a tiger, it’s the “spirit of a tiger” rather than a figurative form,” he says. Enli's lightness of touch lends this oeuvre an ethereal, harmonious and deeply evocative quality.

CNY22 Zhang Enli - Artist

The result amounts to something of a time capsule: an artwork that predates a period of a year and a half in pandemic isolation, so tumultuous it feels like an age.

“In this extraordinary context, the greatest difficulty for me had nothing to do with my personal creative process; it was more about managing my anxiety about the future.” Zhang Enli transposed all this into a fluid, dream-like composition in which sprays of water droplets surge up and reconverge into a tiger prowling in the night.

A yellow and gold palette channels empowerment and refinement, with crystalline amber tones recalling the depth of Hennessy’s cognac blends. “Yellow and gold represent a certain level of refinement: the amber hues they create when mixed together make the tiger figure transparent in this painting, akin to the crystalline beauty of jade. The red brings out the festive atmosphere of the Chinese New Year,” Enli says.

CNY22 Zhang Enli - Artist

When asked what the Chinese New Year mean to him personally, he was quick to give an answer: "It’s a time of celebration, so my wife and I have established little traditions that are special to us: we take the time to walk through the city, we go shopping together which is something we don’t often have time to do, we have friends over, we cook all together and – especially – we dine all together and celebrate the moment. To me, spontaneity and its promise of surprise are the most fun part of this season.”

CNY22 Zhang Enli - Artist

The artwork is singly—and altogether—exquisite, a colouristic lyricism by way of used colours, scraps of fabric and shapes. It conveys a homing instinct for beauty in the humblest of materials, and in the most profound way: feeling joy related to colour schematics. “Those colours made me feel really happy as I was painting this work,” Enli points out.
There’s inarguably a joyful vibe about Enli’s artwork, one that is subsumed by nothing but a personal devotion. And poetry awakened by the surroundings, promising relief from a time of challenge.

  • Hennessy V.S.O.P x Zhang Enli

    The Hennessy V.S.O.P blend is the expression of eight generations of Master Blenders know-how. To perpetuate the legacy of the original Hennessy V.S.O.P, Hennessy Master Blenders have constantly sought to create a completely harmonious blend: it is the definitive expression of a perfectly balanced cognac. Based on a selection of firmly structured eaux-de-vie, aged largely in partially used barrels in order to take on subtle levels of oak tannins, this highly characterful cognac reveals balanced aromas of fresh vanilla, cinnamon and toasty notes, all coming together with a seamless perfection.

  • Hennessy X.O x Zhang Enli

    In 1870, Maurice Hennessy, a 4th-generation member of the Hennessy family, asked the Master Blender Emile Fillioux, a descendant of the Hennessy Master Blender Jean Fillioux, to create a special cognac for his family and friends, using long-aged eaux-de-vie to perfect the blend. They called it “X.O” for “Extra Old”, the original, and a legend was born. Hennessy X.O attained international renown and contributed to the development of the category XO which is a gauge of uncompromising quality. Thanks to 150 years of meticulous know-how, Hennessy X.O remains as inspiring today as it was the day Hennessy first shared it with his inner circle. The powerful and balanced structure of Hennessy X.O carries the promise of an extremely long finish, with each drop an invitation to embark on a journey of the senses through seven tasting notes.

  • Hennessy Paradis x Zhang Enli

    For the first time, special editions of Hennessy X.O and Hennessy V.S.O.P inspired by Zhang Enli’s “Poetry and Wine Welcome the Tiger” will be accompanied by a collector’s edition of Hennessy Paradis, also inspired by this artwork for Chinese New Year. Produced in collaboration with the French heritage house Bernardaud and hand-decorated in the porcelain maker’s atelier in Limoges, the one-liter Hennessy Paradis carafe exists in a limited, numbered edition of only 555 pieces. It is presented in a beautifully crafted wooden box that is intended to enjoy a second life as a decorative object in the home.