Xu Jiang graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1982 and went to Germany in the late 1980s to further his studies. Xu's generation faced a 'post-colonial' West; the world was undergoing globalisation, with the boundaries between 'global' and 'local' becoming intertwined and integrated. In this context, Xu came face to face with the experiment of new media in Western avant-garde art. This upheaval resulted in Xu developing the concept of the 'double return' - in terms of thinking, the return from Western knowledge to traditional culture, and, in terms of artwork, the return from experimentation with cross-media forms to a sense of self-enlightenment in paintings. This artistic journey of return is a continuation of the motto 'Creating arts of the time' advocated by Lin Fengmian, founder of the National Art Academy in Hangzhou, heading towards 'the path of national arts' opened up by Lin.
Sunflower fields evoke the idea of 'homeland' for Xu Jiang. His paintings embody the sunflower field germinating in his heart. They are vast, magnificent compositions that reflect, broadcast and extend his inner world. Twelve Views of a Sunflower Field was created between 2004 and 2006. Xu Jiang uses sombre colours and powerful brushstrokes in depicting the boundlessness of the sunflower field. The sunflowers do not face the sun but the point from which it rose. At the end of the summer, with the vibrancy drained from their yellows and greens, the dying sunflowers stand as figures of perseverance. But they still hold and protect their seeds, creating a sense of the co-existence of death and life, the past and the future. For Chinese traditional culture to persevere in the face of globalisation, it needs to be deconstructed and reconstructed, a process that brings rejuvenation. Through Xu's magnificent paintings, we experience persistence, perseverance and the vicissitudes of the time, and insights into the experiences of life. Xu guides us into historical spaces to help us find the path home.