Zhang Xiaogang

Zhang Xiao Gang :

1958 Born in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China
1982 Graduated from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Art, Sichuan, China


Zhang Xiaogang trained as an oil painter at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1982. He joined a group of young avant-garde artists who came to international prominence during the 1980s. Since that time, he has been represented in many major international exhibitions, including 'Mao Goes Pop' at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art in 1993, the 1994 Sao Paolo Biennale and the 1995 Venice Bienniale. Zhang was a joint founder of the Current of Life painters, and his earlier paintings looked back to the traditional roots of rural Chinese culture to explore human values.

Since 1993 Zhang Xiaogang has been working on the Big Family or Bloodlines series - works inspired by old family photos. The concept of family in China goes far beyond one's immediate family and the ties of family blood. Collectivism is an inherent part of Chinese social history and the ties of social and cultural blood are very strong forces indeed. Zhang Xiaogang says of this greater 'family' “we are mutually restricted and interdependent”. The ties are complex, subtle and persistent.

Zhang creates a sense of nostalgia in his compositions by utilising the conventions of the traditional Chinese photographer. Like his photographic predecessors, he uses dramatic lighting effects and flat anonymous backgrounds to idealise his subjects. In this work, the figures are painted with a smooth pearly finish reminiscent of porcelain, but are lacking in emotion and turn detached faces to the world.

To the artist, these faces are representative of a society striving to exist in an increasingly commodifed and dehumanised world. The comrades hide their individual personalities and histories behind the facade of a standardised portrait. Lacking in specific gender, they appear so similar that we are forced to search for subtle characteristics - the turn of an eye or a pair of glasses - that dictate their individuality.

The thin red lines running through this painting represent the 'big family' ties - the 'bloodlines' - that connect the three comrades and bind them together as a group. They are also a link to the past and emphasise that family relationships have always been important in Chinese society.

Selected Solo Exhibitions :
2004 Umbilical Cord of History: Paintings by Zhang Xiaogang, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong.
2000 Zhang Xiaogang 2000, Max Protetch, New York
1999 Les Camarades, Galerie de France, Paris, France
1998 Zhang Xiaogang, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong
1997 Bloodline: The Big Family, Gallery of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China Zhang Xiaogang, Hanart (Taipei) Gallery
1994 Zhang Xiaogang, Galerie De France, Paris, France
1989 Sichuan Art Academy, Chengdu, China