Author: ZHANG XIAOGANG 张晓刚
Signed and dated: Painted in 2006
Final Price: RMB 5,000,000
2008 Lovely Blossoms and Full Moon / P132-133 / Yuz Museum
signed in Chinese, dated 2006
2008 Lovely Blossoms and Full Moo Yuz Museum, Indonisia / Indonisia
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The extended family series began in 1993. When visiting relatives in his hometown of Chengdu, Zhang Xiaogang chanced upon some old photos, which inspired his works of new theme. This series is the portrait collection based on the family photos that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s. The family photos during the Cultural Revolution are characterized by standardized and stereotyped postures. Oftentimes, the family members sit in front of a camera, with rigid posture and serious expression, and basically similar clothing and hairstyle. The photos mirror the material scarcity and the monotonous cultural life in a special era. Each character has a label belonging to the time and identity, such as Chinese tunic suit and red scarves, but their individuality was nonexistent in the collective. Zhang Xiaogang re-examines the family idea and collectivism prevailing at the time from the standpoint of the new era, reinterprets the historical context with new ideas and symbolic language, and discusses the value of collectivism and the significance of individual sacrifice, as well as the conflict between personality liberty and social norms. As he put it: “I saw a method to depict the conflicts between individuals and collectives. It was not until that time that I really began to paint. I can use the Cultural Revolution to describe the complex relationship between the state and the people. China is like an extended family. People rely on each other and also have conflicts. This is what I want to concentrate on. Gradually, its relationship with the Cultural Revolution weakens, and the focus shifts to the people’s psychological status. By depicting the collective memory and emotions behind the paintings, the artist shows the Chinese people’s modest and rational way of interaction with others in the changing times. To exhibit the behavior characteristics and mindset of the characters in the special times, Zhang Xiaogang chose smooth, gentle characters. This form of art has the charms like the lunar new year’s paintings popular in the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China period. Transforming realistic paintings into Chinese-style popular paintings creates a sense of history for the paintings, and is also an irony for specific ideology.
Produced in 2007, brothers are a common theme in the “Consanguinity - Big Family” series. The artist explores the ties of consanguinity within the family using the calm and restrained images. The standard two-person photo popular in the 1960s is adopted for the composition of the painting. The two brothers standing in a row look squarely at the camera. The typical Chinese tunic suit, slender cheeks, single-fold eyelids and other features have associations with the past for the viewer. The rigid sitting posture and the eyes hint at the suppressed individuality and emotions. The cool and melancholy gray tone highlights the atmosphere of a bygone era. The characters in the family series seem to be the same, but the signature light spots highlight their different identities through changing shapes and the faint shadow effect. In this work, the light flooding from the right side falls on the faces to form a large irregular red light spot. The slender and flexible red line delineates the bubble-like outline. The light spot on the eyebrows in the right echoes with the spot on the chins of the character in the left, hinting at the blood relations between the two. It shares the stories concealed in the memory bubble. The randomly painted red lines stand out on the black and white background, as if rebelling against social norms and constraints. It seems to be the lively memory in ordinary life. Zhang Xiaogang tells the stories of a generation using autobiographical narrative language. His “Consanguinity - Family” series with humanistic care and historicism are one of the works that best convey the temperament of the times in the history of Chinese contemporary art.