Zhang Xiaogang - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Saturday, June 28, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly through the artist

  • Catalogue Essay

    Originally working from family photographs, Zhang Xiaogang's work is inspired by the tradition of surrealism and symbolism. His focus on portraiture produces works that question identity with a presentation of detached figures in predominantly black and white tones. There is a formal quality to his work as if each painting has been touched up in a photographer's studio. The porcelain like finish echoes the timelessness of each individual portrait while balancing between static and exaggerated qualities.
    The present lot typifies Zhang's use of dramatic light on the figure, which is strongly juxtaposed to a flat anonymous background. His use of color distinguishes the present lot to try and unearth some hint of narration. The completive state of the figure's face is reminiscent of the surrealist interest in dreams and psychological readings and calls to the viewer to meditate on the possibilities of narration.

  • 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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Oil on canvas.
160 x 200 cm. (63 x 78 3/4 in).
Pekin Fine Arts, Beijing

£300,000 - 400,000 ≠ †

Sold for £385,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

29 June 2008, 5pm