China’s most important painter and his iconic series

Zhang Xiaogang - Bloodline Series - Father and Son
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Father and Son

Contemporary artist, Zhang Xiaogang, was born in Kunming in China’s Yunnan province in 1958, and was the third of four brothers. Zhang’s mother, Qi Ailan, taught Zhang how to draw in order to preoccupy him so that he would stay out of trouble. Zhang has made waves with his paintings in his predominantly monochromatic Bloodline series, which are stylized portraits of Chinese people, posed stiff and upright, in a manner that is deliberately reminiscent of family portraits from the 1950s and 1960s.

Through his painting, Zhang questions concepts of difference, otherness, and perception. His sitters stare out from the canvas with penetrating detachment, thus confronting the audience with an almost otherworldly gaze; the sitters vacant expressions seem to look into the audiences soul, nothing can escape from their big piercing eyes.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution of 1966-77 witnessed the annihilation of a significant number of historical documents, including family portraits. Family photos were a strong tradition in China before the revolution, and the change in the Family portraiture tradition represents to many the loss of precious family memories that are addressed in this Bloodline: The big family series.

He also uses vivid lighting effects combined with flat indistinctive backgrounds to venerate his subjects. In his work, the individuals are painted with a smooth pearly finish looking very similar to the finish of porcelain, and the faces lack any emotion whatsoever. These detached faces stare into the audience and the world beyond. However, the reminiscence of the traditional family portrait draws you in, contradicting the aversion to the seemingly unnatural expressionless stare of the figures staring back at you. Zhang Xiaogang uses his talent to create a sense of nostalgia in his works by employing the conventions of traditional Chinese photography. This work is simply intriguing.

Zhang Xiaogang - Bloodline Series - My dream, Little General, 2005, Oil on canvas, 200x260cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – My dream, Little General, 2005, Oil on canvas, 200x260cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family No. 1, 150x179m
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family No. 1, 150x179m

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family No. 1, 2001, oil on canvas, 200x300cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family No. 1, 2001, oil on canvas, 200x300cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family No. 2, 1993
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family No. 2, 1993

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family No. 2, 1996, oil on canvas
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family No. 2, 1996, oil on canvas

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family No. 2, 2001, oil on canvas, 200x300cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family No. 2, 2001, oil on canvas, 200x300cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family No. 9, 1996, oil on canvas, 150cmx190cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family No. 9, 1996, oil on canvas, 150x190cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family No. 9, 1997, oil on canvas, 149x189cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family No. 9, 1997, oil on canvas, 150x190cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family No. 10, 2000, oil on canvas, 200x300cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family No. 10, 2000, oil on canvas, 200x300cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family Series, 2006, lithograph, 105.4x139.7cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family Series, 2006, lithograph, 105.4×139.7cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family- Sister and Brother, 1999, oil on canvas, 190x150cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family – Sister and Brother, 1999, oil on canvas, 190x150cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family, 1995, Oil on canvas, 179x229cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family, 1995, Oil on canvas, 179x229cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Big Family, 2003, Lithograph printed in colors, 56.9 x 71.88 cm, Edition of 199
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Big Family, 2003, Lithograph printed in colors, 56.9 x 71.88 cm, Edition of 199

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Boy, 2003, oil on canvas, 130x110cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Boy, 2003, oil on canvas, 130x110cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Boy, 2004, oil on canvas, 146x118cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Boy, 2004, oil on canvas, 146x118cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Brothers, 2006, oil on canvas, 180x230cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Brothers, 2006, oil on canvas, 180x230cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Comrade (Sister), 2006, Lithograph on wove, 94×77cm, Edition of 99
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Comrade (Sister), 2006, Lithograph on wove, 94×77cm, Edition of 99

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Father and Daughter No. 1, 1999, oil on canvas, 100x80cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Father and Daughter No. 1, 1999, oil on canvas, 100x80cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Father and Daughter No. 1, 2005, oil on canvas, 80x100cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Father and Daughter No. 1, 2005, oil on canvas, 80x100cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Father and Daughter No. 1, 2008, oil on canvas, 200cx160cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Father and Daughter No. 1, 2008, oil on canvas, 200x160cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Father and Daughter No. 1, 2010, oil on canvas, 120cmx150cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Father and Daughter No. 1, 2010, oil on canvas, 120x150cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Father and Daughter No. 2, 2008, oil on canvas, 160x200cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Father and Daughter No. 2, 2008, oil on canvas, 160x200cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Father And Son
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Father and Son

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Lovers, 1999, oil on canvas, 130x110cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Lovers, 1999, oil on canvas, 130x110cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - My Ideal Job — Worker, Peasant, Businessman, Student, Soldier, 2008, oil on canvas, 280x500cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – My Ideal Job — Worker, Peasant, Businessman, Student, Soldier, 2008, oil on canvas, 280x500cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Sister and Brother, 2010, oil on canvas, 270x370cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Sister and Brother, 2010, oil on canvas, 270x370cm


Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – The Fixed Gaze, 2009, Lithograph, 120x80cm, Edition of 130

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series - Two Sisters, 2003, lithograph, 50.8x64.1cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series – Two Sisters, 2003, Lithograph, 50.8×64.1cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series, 1996, oil on canvas, 40 x 30.2 cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series, 1996, oil on canvas, 40×30.2cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series, 1997, oil on canvas, 40x30cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series, 1997, oil on canvas, 40x30cm

Zhang Xioagang - Bloodline Series, 1998, 150x150cm
Zhang XiaogangBloodline Series, 1998, 150x150cm

 

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