Zhang Xiaogang - Contemporary Art London Thursday, June 21, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Schoeni Art Gallery Ltd, Hong Kong

  • Catalogue Essay

    There is a quietly seductive, as well as disturbing, appeal to Zhang’s paintings. They hover between realistic depiction and dreamy illusion. Zhang has achieved this by bringing together a number of polarities. Zhang uses a technique based on western academic realism to suggest unreality and illusion; he portrays a private insular world by means of a public artistic language, hinting at unspoken public trauma through individuals’ secrets. Over twenty years, Zhang has managed to resolve his own stylistic passage from an early expressionistic period to a form of classicism. In both its technique and thematic concerns, Zhang Xiaogang’s art has become a canon of contemporary Chinese oil painting, and its merits depend very much on the fact that he has found new solutions to harnessing western classical academic technique (a standard in Chinese academies) to turn it into an indigenous artistic language…
    The skills of realism have been used by Zhang to depict a situation that seems to be neither real nor imaginary, drawing the audience into the other reality of art. In a realm straddling reality and fantasy, the viewer is invited to linger upon the ambiguities bordering that which is public and the private, memory and forgetfulness, personal and public traumas. This is perhaps the artistic reason for Zhang’s success in the recent decade. He has reinvented a classical icon to articulate both unutterable public taboos as well as each person’s private secrets. T. Z. Chang, Between Reality and Illusion, Hanart Gallery, 2004

  • 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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Bloodline Series No. 53

Oil on canvas.
15 3/8 x 11 1/4 in. (39.1 x 28.6 cm).
Signed and dated “Zhang Xiaogang 1997” lower right.

£70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for £150,000

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm