The selection of works by Zhang Xiaogang offers an evolutionary perspective of his remarkable opus.
Painted in 1986, Flora(Lot 355), depicts a doleful scene of reflective beauty. Zhang's trademark use of varied flesh colour and symbolism is already evident, yet this is an unusual material medium that comprises of acrilyic on cotton mounted on paperboard.
Kunming(Lot 351) painted in 1987 extends Zhang's artistic expression further still into the realms of symbolism and expressionism, with a work that echoes of biblical inspiration and the notion of a sacrificial martyr, as emphasised by the presence of the severed head - a motif that would frequent a number of Zhang's earlier works.
In the selection of works from 1989, we find a riot of metaphors, symbols and motifs. Untitled(Lot 354) presents the portrait of a young girl seated stiffly upon a chair, facing towards the viewer and maintaining a powerful, determined gaze. The severed head is once again featured almost as a subtle 'mis-en-scene' to the lower right corner.
Untitled (Girl in red and green)(Lot 352) depicts a group of two women and one man - possibly kin given Zhang's later expression of family ties via flesh tone and bloodlines - as they stand before the severed head of a goat. Once again the biblical theme is evident, and here the severed goats' head plays to the metaphorical parallel of the 'sacrificial lamb'. This term is derived from the traditions of the Abrahamic religion, whereby a lamb is seen to be a worthy possession and as such a sacrificial offering is perceived to obtain the more highly valued favour of God. If one looks closely at this work, we can also make out the eyes and figure of a young child, shielded between the group in a red hue. Untitled(Lot 353) depicts a forlorn scene whereby a red severed head rests upon a high plate, three smaller severed heads gaze towards it mournfully. Zhang's signature motif of the coloured patch or mark is here evident as it engulfs two of the heads and part of the table, offering a yellow hue. A concurrent feature throughout these works from 1989 is the white sheet that appears in each artwork. This sheet is reflective of Zhang's harrowing time spent in hospital in 1984, where his white bed-sheet gave him powerful stimuli that tempered his artistic thoughts.
In the later lithographic selection of these works from 2006, we find the epitome of Zhang's 'Bloodlines: Big Family' series. In Big Family (Single Boy)(Lot 738) a young boy faces squarely at the viewer, his hands are clasped behind his back in an authoritative manner. His protrudent teeth individualise the subject and offer a relief from his otherwise serious expression. Big Family (Single Girl)(Lot 737) portrays a young girl with glasses and a serious expression. She clasps a book to her front and places the other hand behind her back. By her attire, we may assume she is a schoolgirl and we are given the overall impression of her studious nature. In Bloodline: Big family(Lot 739) a young baby is flanked by his parents in a portrait scene. The parents appear serious and resolute whilst the young child portrays an uncertain innocence. The bloodline connects each of them, and here the patch of damage or memory recollects as a pink hue on the parents, reflected in the pink flesh of the child. Throughout these works, the weight of recollection is palpable and the figures imbue a sense of duty and purpose, with a strong emotional current subserviently flowing beneath their poised exterior.