Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958)
signed in Chinese and dated '2003' (lower right)
oil on canvas
39¼ x 31½ in. (99.6 x 80 cm.)
Painted in 2003.
Tang Gallery, Bangkok

Lot Essay

The suspended nostalgia of Zhang Xiaogang's portraits continues to elude specific artistic signifiers or definitions, inhabiting the floating space between illusion and reality. Employing the aesthetic of old analog photography, each persona is imbued with juxtaposing layers of meaning and an impermanent historical past. Their existence within Zhang's canvases briefly illustrates the authenticity of regressive representation, but as soon as we lay eyes on them, they appear to vanish, sinking into the monochromatic tint of memory's faded hue.

Similarly, Girl is ensconced in a painterly languor of muted colors and soft outlines. The work reminds us of the crisply uniformed schoolgirls of the Cultural Revolution, whose legacy of photographic documentation is the source of Zhang's inspiration. However it also alludes to the rapid maturing of Zhang's own daughter, whom he paints repeatedly in his family portraits, as well as alongside himself in an earlier work, Father and Daughter. This deeply personal subject, which the artist identifies as an extension of his own self, reveals the lens through which he views the contemporary world and his own evolving progression of works. Although recorded in a fleeting moment of suspended animation, the wide eyed solemnity and forward-looking gaze of the portrait reveals a young girl stepping out from the fragments of the past and standing on the cusp of a changing, industrialized China.

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