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The Chinese Surrealist and symbolist artist Zhang
Xiaogang has gifted Chinese art by his unique use of Western classical art to
create an individual yet indigenous art technique. His famous "Bloodline" works
provide an effective criticism of the exaggerated Chinese emphasis on
collectivism. His "Amnesia and Memory" series is a wonderful depiction of
recollection and forgetfulness. His subjects by their very lack of expression
tell a lot, and this is probably where Zhang's greatness lies.
Born in 1958 in Kunming in the Chinese province Yunnan, Zhang Xioagang is a contemporary Chinese surrealist and symbolist artist. Zhang's works are much sought after by foreign collectors. He is particularly well-known for his "Bloodline" painting collection - portraiture which depicts uniformity, and challenges the Chinese obsession with the collective. China's political disturbances and Western painters such as Picasso, Dali and Richter have influenced his work.
Zhang took up the study of oil painting at the Sichuan Academy of Art. While studying there, he gained an understanding an interest of western painting. Surrealism and Cubism had an enduring impression on him. A visit to the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany assisted him in finding his own individualistic style of art. He became a member of a group of young avant-garde artists who became important in the 1980s. In 1985, he co-founded the avant-garde movement "Current of Life."
Zhang gave his initial solo exhibition in Chongking, at the Lost in the Dreams Gallery of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts. Zhang has been able to harness the techniques of western classical art to create works with a Chinese identity, which suit local needs. Zhang gives importance to brushstrokes and color and utilizes flat unidentified backgrounds and dramatic illumination effects to idealize his figures. His "Bloodline" portraits which he started work on in the 90s depict Chinese people, a major inspiration for which are photos discovered by the artist, of his mother as an attractive woman in her youth. The subjects in these paintings are expressionless, commonly with haunting dark-pupiled big eyes and in a stiff pose. The lack of facial expression is a portrayal of the false appearance of calmness which conceals emotional turbulence within. It is a criticism of the exaggerated importance which the Chinese give to the collective, with souls suffering under the might of public standardization.
Zhang has two trademark gestures - a little red line that links the different figures in the picture and then winds off the side of the canvas, and irregular color patches. Zhang interprets the color spots as brief feelings of passion and hope in an otherwise gloomy everyday existence.
In 2007, "Bloodline: Three Comrades" was sold for $2,112,000 at Sotheby's in New York. The "Amnesia and Memory" series is another important body of work from Zhang. The series investigates the complicated link between memory and forgetting and how it affects an individual's mind, how past recollections are continually changed in the present. "Tiananmen Square" critiques the tragic happenings of 1989 and fetched $2.3 million in 1993, at Christie's auction house in Hong Kong.
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