Zhang Xiaogang - BRIC Theme Sale London Friday, April 23, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Catalogue Essay

    Concerned with the portrayal of history, Zhang Xiaogang's Amnesia and Memory series examines how portraits obscure an already hidden past. Influenced by artists such as Gerhard Richter and Salvador Dali, Xiaogang paints in surreal but photorealist manner, examining what portraits allow us to understand of the past. Ofen rigid and formal, portraits document passages of time within our lives - yet such fragments of history exist without conveying the emotion or reality of the actual moment. The viewer is given no insight into any underlying drama or tension, being instead presented with the individuals's attempt to portray their 'best self'. Sometimes, as in the case of a graduation or an honour bestowed. We are given a clue as to why a particular moment was documented; but more usually, the only information given is a formal indication of who the subject is, and an impression of their approximate age and appearance at that time. Xiaogang further obscures this depersonalized sense of personal history to create a collective history, painting his figures in a mysterious, otherworldly manner. We are encouraged to recognise these figures as individuals, although without being given a formal name they become relocated to a more general history - and the viewer is asked to think critically about what portraits can really tell us our past. 

  • Artist Biography

    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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Amnesia and Memory

Oil on canvas.
160 x 200 cm (63 x 78 3/4 in).
Signed in Chinese and dated 'Zhang Xiaogang 2006'  lower right.

£220,000 - 320,000 

Sold for £385,250

BRIC Theme Sale

23-24 April 2010