Little General, 2003
Oil on Canvas, 130 x 110 cm
>> Zhang Xiaogang
Zhang Xiaogang is best known for his Big Family series which he has been working on since 1993. The spark for these works came from old family photographs. What interested the artist was the complexity of life and emotions behind the family scenes portrayed. The concept of a big 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.
In his paintings the artist captures the superficial homogeneity of the collectivity through the smooth, unblemished faces and evenly staring eyes - touched up as they would have been in the photographers' studio. Small idiosyncrasies, one crossed eye, glasses, a mole, imperfect teeth or a wisp of hair gone astray, reveal individual differences. As Zhang Xiaogang says we live in a big family, the first thing we learn is how to shut ourselves up in a secret small cell and pretend to keep step with all the other members of the Family.
More recent works by Zhang Xiaogang of the Amnesia and Remembrance series deal with the workings of memory. The artists is interested in how memory can be selective and often inaccurate. Here the artist draws upon elements of his very early work prior to 1993, light bulbs, open books with writing, pens etc. Also, he is creating large scale canvasses of great empty urban scenes where the weight of recollection is palpable.
Chinese Contemporary is assisting the Sara Hilden Art Museum, Tampere, Finland with a major exhibition of Zhang Xiaogang's works to be held in the autumn of 2007.