3327 | ZHANG XIAOGANG Painted in 1997 BLOODLINE COMRADES

BLOODLINE COMRADES

Author: ZHANG XIAOGANG 张晓刚

Size: 79×99.5cm

Signed and dated: Painted in 1997

Estimate:

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signed in Chinese and pinyin, dated 1997
PROVENANCE
Private Collection
Current collector brought this painting directly from the artist

Zhang Xiaogang is praised by the critic Li Xianting as “the artist epitomizing Chinese contemporary art” for his unique personal style and self-description discourse. Whether it be the “abyss period” in the 1980s, the “consanguinity period” in the 1990s, or the “reminiscence period” in the 21st century, he produces art on the basis of the collective and the individuals, and memory and memory loss, which lays the groundwork for continuous questioning of the meaning of individuals and the sentimental and romantic tone of narration.
“Consanguinity: Big Family”, the most celebrated works of Zhang Xiaogang, earns an international reputation for the artist, and also becomes a milestone work of Chinese contemporary art going global. Many different versions of these epoch-making works were produced in more than a decade, mirroring the inescapable relationship between individuals and collectives, and between society and history in the context of genealogy and social politics. It can be called epoch-making cultural landscape. In this series, Zhang Xiaogang adds the stereotyped embellishment and neutral beauty of old photos into the figure by using the common way of taking group pictures for the Chinese people: rigidly upright posture, well-adjusted dress, regular seating arrangement, etc. These show the influence of “collectivism” complex in Chinese traditions on contemporary concepts. The silent expressions of the figures seem to guard a speechless secret – the shared trauma of a generation.
Bloodline•Comrades, created in 1997, was produced at a time when Zhang Xiaogang reached full maturity in style and techniques in the Consanguinity series. The two male figures in the painting bear a regularized “imprint of the times” in their clothes, appearance, and even expressions. The vague and blurred outline and details create a feeling that viewers see this through a soft light filter. It is full of poetic aesthetic characteristic and a psychological distance composed of history, time and space, and memory. This approach is reminiscent of figures or still life paintings by Gerhard Richter – the indescribable subtle feeling that is close yet remote is the metaphysical status pursued by the two artists. More importantly, the artist uses charcoal flat coating and typed replication techniques when painting these old photos. On the one hand, the history that is not far away is reproduced. On the one hand, it also has a sense of unreal and even illusory feeling, which constitute the critical reading and cultural thought of the individual artists on that collective history.
This Bloodline•Comrades features a cold gray tone, as if the figures in the painting are enveloped by memory and time, like illusory phantoms. This gray tone has become Zhang Xiaogang’s signature rhetoric of time. As for the preference of gray, Zhang Xiaogang said: “Gray creates a feeling of alienation from reality and of nostalgia. It expresses my personal feelings, and also has to do with my personality. I like the feeling created by the gray – a feeling reminiscent of the past, and evocative of the dream.” Zhang Xiaogang was of gray temperament in his youth. He was introverted and reticent. Painting is a vehicle to express the spiritual world. After his middle age, he was involved in creation, traveled all over the place, and made friends. The gray feeling in his heart did not disappear, but instead gives birth to rich levels and texture. In addition, the red line that runs through the two males in the Bloodline•Comrades shows his inspiration from Frida Kahlo and his art. In the painting, Zhang Xiaogang deliberately changed the lines in the paintings by Frida, and used instead weak thin lines to dispel the specific relationship between the objects and images, symbolizing society, family, and culture in a universal form. It is the gathering and separation of “people” based on given history and memory. In the Bloodline•Comrades, Zhang Xiaogang developed a real internal narrative, and a “personal history” that goes beyond ideology in his art practices. Through the silent faces, the artist explores the relationship between family and individuals, and also shows the social destiny behind the collective memory, and expresses his puzzlement and confusion in the historical context in an implicit and restrained way.