Bloodline: Big Family No. 11

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Galerie de France, Paris
    Galerie Andy Jllien , Zurich
    Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 2001)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie De France, Zhang Xiaogang - Les Camarades, 1 April – 15 May 1999, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Literature

    Hanart TZ Gallery, Umbilical Cord of History: Paintings by Zhang Xiaogang, Hong Kong, 2004, p. 106 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Inspired by old black and white family photographs, the Bloodline series is a body of works by Chinese contemporary artist Zhang Xiaogang produced between 1993 and 1999. A style conceived during a period of political turmoil in China during the Cultural Revolution, this iconic series has come to embody the collective vision of socialist China and the artist’s own dissonant voice. Zhang created the very first ‘family’ painting as a mode to negotiate the conflicts of group versus individual identity in early 1990s China. Subsequently, in 1999 the artist held his first solo exhibition in Europe at Galerie de France, a well-established gallery with a long history of exhibiting works from star artists, featuring the likes of Zao Wou-Ki and Pierre Soulages. Titled Zhang Xiaogang - Les Camarades, the exhibition featured newer works from his acclaimed Bloodline series, including the present work Bloodline: Big Family, No. 11. The title of the exhibition in conjunction with the Big Family series showed how the term ‘comrade’ was used as a unifying socialist term to address all citizens of the People’s Republic of China as part of a ‘big family’. Executed in the later years of the series, Bloodline: Big Family No. 11 is a mature product of many years of study and development borne of the artist’s personal experiences growing up during the Cultural Revolution.

    A critical symbol central to the Bloodline series, sliver thin red threads weave around a young boy and girl in Bloodline: Big Family No. 11, as they stare straight ahead at the viewer. Wearing solemn, distant expressions, modest attire and conservative haircuts, the two subjects each bear the typical appearance of a member of collectivist-era China. Zhang’s children are precocious; depicted as too mature for their ages, shaped by the restrictions and rules set by adult society. The artist borrows the language of photography in his works, staging its composition to resemble that of old family photographs from that era. As a later work from his series, the present work is the product of years of practice replicating the soft ambient glow and lens glare of old black and white photographs. This allowed the artist to introduce more light into his paintings compared to earlier works, and to achieve a luminous effect through the use of multiple layers of thin paint. The photograph functioned as a mode of documenting individual memories in time, as well as preserving a moment in real life for posterity. However, inspired by Gerhard Richter’s works, Zhang started exploring the psychological and emotional potential of photography: how a simple, direct family portrait taken in a studio can carry the emotional burden of history, illustrate the complexities of the individual versus the collective identity, as well as fulfil people’s nostalgia for old film. To paint works that look realistically like photographs, Zhang essentially creates ‘fake’ images composed of many different pictorial references and memories.

    Against a predominantly monotone palette, the viewer’s eye is automatically drawn to the girl’s attire, highlighted in a striking hue of pinkish red. Though one would assume that the choice of colour is related to the red flag of the Cultural Revolution, in an interview with the artist he explained that the colour choice was simply a new red that he had seen and purchased in fabric stores at the time:

    “Works created between 1995 to 1996 carried a strong sense of national identity, you could tell at first glance from the communist attire that they were living through the Cultural Revolution. From 1998 onwards, I wanted to gradually soften this image and to make my works more dreamlike. At this point, I started pursuing a lighter palette, with more illusory qualities in the works as compared to the darker, more sombre palette I used before.” (Zhang Xiaogang, quoted in Zhang Wenjia, “Interview with Zhang Xiaogang”, March 2019)

    The emphasis on attire highlighted the artist’s decision to steer away from the strong political connotations that his earlier works carried, with their communist uniforms and darker tones (see for example the artist’s Portrait, 1996). The change in attire extended the work’s relevance for people living in China between the 1960s and 1990s, not just for those who experienced the Cultural Revolution, but also into the modern and contemporary era.

    It is also important to consider that the present work was created after the birth of the artist’s daughter in 1994. At the point of execution, Zhang Xiaogang’s daughter would have been about 4 years old, and the children in the painting are conceivably modelled upon a similar age range to that of hers. However, instead of documenting the contemporaneous experiences of his daughter in the 1990s, the old black-and-white photographic style of the work conveys the experiences from the artist’s own childhood. An image that presents a narrative of time and family, the thin red bloodlines connect the young boy and girl as siblings – not related by birth, but as a part of a nation that emphasised unity and conformity in Mao’s communist era. The painting thus represents the collective memories of entire generation of children who lived and grew up during the Cultural Revolution, imbuing the work with a poetic sense of nostalgia and of changing times.

    Zhang Xiaogang’s iconic Bloodline series not only explores collective and self-identity through the nation’s historical memories, mature works such as Bloodline: Big Family, No. 11 provide insights into his own personal life, offering a piece of complex emotional and psychological history that is universally relatable.

    Phillips would like to thank Zhang Xiaogang for his assistance with this essay.

  • Catalogue Essay

    《血緣》系列是中國當代藝術家張曉剛於1993年至1999年間創作的作品,其創作靈感來自家裡的黑白老照片。此風格形成於中國文化大革命的政治動亂時期,這一標誌性系列體現了社會主義中國的集體視角以及藝術家自己當時的反思。為了表達1990年代初期集體於個人身份之間的衝突,張曉剛創作了他的第一幅《大家庭》繪畫作品。隨後,在1999年,藝術家在法蘭西畫廊(Galerie de France)舉辦了他的第一次歐洲個展。這個歷史悠久的畫廊,曾經展出過許多重量級藝術家的作品,其中包括趙無極和皮埃·蘇拉吉(Pierre Soulages)等。這個名為《張曉剛 - 同志》的展覽展出了他著名的《血緣》系列中較新的作品,包括這件《 血緣系列11號- 大家庭》。展覽的標題與《大家庭》系列一起,顯示了「同志」一詞是如何作為統一的社會主義術語,被用來稱呼中華人民共和國「大家庭」中一份子的所有公民。創作於該系列後期,《血緣:大家庭11號》是藝術家在經過多年的研究和發展後,並承載了其成長於文革時期的個人經歷所創作的一件成熟作品。

    對《血緣》系列引發重要作用的一個關鍵的標誌,是一條如銀絲般纖細的紅線。在《血緣系列11號- 大家庭》中圍繞著畫中直視著觀者的小男孩和小女孩,這兩個人物的表情嚴肅、疏離,穿著簡樸,髮型保守,兩人都帶著典型的集體主義時代中國人的裝扮。張曉剛作品中的孩童是早熟的;因為被成年人社會規範的限制所塑造,而顯示出超越年齡的成熟。藝術家在他的作品中借用了攝影語言,使其與那個時代的家庭老照片有著相似的構圖。作為這個系列中的後期創作,該作品是他多年練習營造柔和的環境光和製造黑白老照片的鏡頭眩光效果之產物。與其早期作品相比,藝術家已經能夠在作品中注入更多的光線,並通過使用較薄的顏料進行色彩層疊來展現光暈的效果。照片的作用在於及時記錄個人記憶,並為後代保留真實生活中的某一時刻。然而,在葛哈·李希特的作品的啟發下,張曉剛開始探索攝影的心理和情感潛能:在攝影棚所拍攝的一張簡單、直接的全家福是如何承載歷史的情感負擔,展示個體相對於集體身份之間的複雜性,並且滿足人們對老膠片的懷舊情緒。為了繪畫出看起來像是真實照片的作品,張曉剛本質上創造出了由許多不同的圖像參考和記憶所組成的「假」圖像。

    對於單色色調佔據主導的畫面,觀者的視線會主動被吸引到小女孩那醒目的紅中帶粉色調的服裝上。儘管人們可能會認為對紅色的選擇與文化大革命時期的紅旗有著關聯,但在採訪中藝術家解釋說,對這種顏色的選擇僅僅是來自他在當時於美術用品店所看到和購買的一種新的紅色顏料:

    「1995年至1996年間創作的作品之身份感特別強,一眼就能看出人物身上穿的是文革時期或70年代的服裝。到1998年我就想慢慢把畫淡化一點,而且也想讓畫更夢幻一點。在色彩上也開始追求虛幻、偏淡一點的,比較沒那麼沈重的色彩。」(張曉剛,引自張文嘉,《張曉剛訪談》,2019年3月)。

    對服裝的強調凸顯了藝術家決定脫離他早期作品中描繪的共產主義制服和深色調所帶有的強烈政治意味(參見藝術家的《肖像》,1996年)。服裝上的變化使作品與生活在1960年代和1990年代之間的中國人都產生共鳴,不僅僅是在講述那些經歷過文化大革命的人,而且也將時序擴展至現當代。

    同樣值得關注的是,這幅作品是1994年藝術家在他的女兒出生後創作的。在創作這幅作品時,張曉剛的女兒大概已經4歲了,畫中的孩子們可以想像與她的年齡相近。然而,這件老黑白照片風格的作品所記錄的並不是他女兒在1990年代的同期經歷,而是傳遞了藝術家自己童年時代的經歷。一幅關於時間和家庭敘事的圖像,纖細的紅色血緣線將這對男孩女孩如兄妹般連接在一起 - 並非真正因血緣相連,而是同樣作為強調集體和整合的、毛澤東時期的共產主義時代之中國的一部分而相連。因此,這幅畫代表了在文化大革命期間生活和成長的整整一代兒童之集體記憶,使作品充滿詩意的懷舊感和時代變遷感。

    張曉剛標誌性的《血緣》系列不僅通過整個民族的歷史記憶來探索集體歸屬和自我認同,如《 血緣系列11號- 大家庭》等成熟的作品同時也為觀者打開了進入藝術家個人生活的視角,展示了一段讓人們普遍感同身受的複雜情感和心理歷史。

    富藝斯特別鳴謝張曉剛協助指導此專文。

  • Artist Bio

    Zhang Xiaogang

    Chinese • 1958

    Relying on memory and inspired by family portraits from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Zhang Xiaogang creates surreal, subtle artworks that explore the notion of identity in relation to the Chinese culture of collectivism. Using a muted, greyscale palette, Xiaogang repeatedly depicts a series of unnervingly similar figures, often dressed in identical Mao suits, to create an endless genealogy of imagined forebears and progenitors. Their somber, melancholy gazes are interrupted only by thin red bloodlines intimating familial links as well as occasional pale splotches of color resembling birthmarks.

    Xiaogang investigates how to express individual histories within the strict confines of a formula. His sitters, while appearing muted and compliant, are given physical exaggerations: oversized heads, tiny hands and long noses. These distortions imply stifled emotions and give a complex psychological dimension to the artist's work.

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Property from an Important Private European Collection

Bloodline: Big Family No. 11

1998
signed and dated 'Zhang Xiaogang [in Chinese and Pinyin] 1998' lower right
oil on canvas
148.7 x 189.9 cm. (58 1/2 x 74 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1998.

Estimate
HK$9,000,000 - 15,000,000 
€1,030,000-1,710,000
$1,150,000-1,920,000

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Isaure de Viel Castel
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019