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Tiananmen No. 1
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Tiananmen No. 1
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Descrizione dell'oggetto

Zhang Xiaogang B. 1958, Tiananmen No. 1\nPainted in 1993\nOil on canvas, framed\n98.6 by 128 cm. 38 7/8 by 50 3/8 in.
HK
HK
HK

notes

Zhang Xiaogang's paintings have often been discussed in terms of the politics they seem to imply. Rarely, however, do his works touch so directly on concrete political events as in three canvases of identical size he realized in 1993, all depicting the ubiquitous symbol of the PRC "The Tiananmen rostrum-as seen from the square below. Coming in succession and following several years on the heels of the events of 1989, these works frame the artist's relationship to the most important event of his generation in increasingly closer terms.

The present work (Lot 158) presents a yellow Tiananmen, glimpsed from afar. (In the second and third works in this small series, the rostrum is rendered in red.) The fabled Gate of Heavenly Peace (as the name literally translates) grows larger with each canvas, evoking the photographic device of zooming in on a target. A series of musical bars adorns the top of the canvas, seemingly cryptic notations which actually render the tune of a popular song. The monumental edifice is seen against a gray sky, and across a sea of chiaroscuro paving stones. The composition of the stones differs only in length from that of the trompe l'oeil frame which surrounds the image. Perhaps most significantly two parallel red lines travel the distance of the square, rushing toward convergence at the painting's vanishing point. This marks the first occurrence of such lines, which would later become the basis for the moniker "Bloodlines" given by the curator Johnson Chang to Zhang Xiaogang"s Big Family series.

Zhang Xiaogang traveled a slightly different trajectory than other artists of his generation. He was an early bloomer, graduating from the Sichuan Academy in 1982 and achieving some renown instantly when Li Xianting wrote about his unorthodox graduation work in the influential Fine Arts Newspaper. During the so-called 1985 "New Wave," when the academies were undergoing their most intense spout of innovation and change, Zhang Xiaogang was outside the core of the scene, a difficult four-year era that saw him hospitalized and withdrawn from large-scale creative work. When he was finally invited back to his alma mater as a teacher in 1986, he quickly set upon assembling the elements that have become central to his later famous work: the palette of grays, yellows, and reds, the room-corner perspective, the vaguely surrealist assemblages of heads, hands and books. In short, the late 1980s were an extremely productive period for Zhang Xiaogang, capped by the tragedy of the 1989 which ended on Tiananmen Square.

The critic Karen Smith has written about a series of oil and watercolor works on paper that Zhang produced immediately after June 4th, pointing to their "aura of religiosity [that] was invoked almost as a prayer for inner calm, an act of meditation"[1] These works demonstrate a rawness and solemnity that can only stem from the trauma of the incident, juxtaposing iconic religious motifs from Christianity and Buddhism in a search for transcendence.

But life moved on, and even got better, for Zhang Xiaogang in the years immediately following. His art continued to move forward, his palette coming into closer relief and his formal vocabulary growing ever more succinct and direct. Personally speaking, he married Teng Lei, his fiancame of three years in 1992. Perhaps most influential on his later work, Zhang Xiaogang traveled in June of that year to visit her in Germany, where she was then studying. On this extended trip he was finally able to experience first-hand the works to which he had looked for inspiration through the 1980s, but perhaps the real fruit of the journey for him was the chance to encounter work by Gerhard Richter. Zhang has noted that "I had no idea how to express the feeling [photographs] imparted to me within a painting until I saw the work of Gerhard Richter in Germany. Before going to Germany my favorite artist was Anselm Kiefer." [2] It was at this point that some of Zhang's compositions began to feature a painted, frame-like border-an element central to the presentation of the present work.

Back in Sichuan and then Kunming after his return, Zhang Xiaogang began a period of thinking in which his Big Family series has its origin. During this pivotal moment in 1993, he painted first his red and yellow babies, and then the three paintings of Tiananmen, before completing the first Big Family work at the end of the year. Zhang Xiaogang's nascent, Richteresque interest in photographic depiction, which would ground his work through most of the nineties, is nowhere so evident as in this painting, which carries with it a sense of distortion through a camera lens. It is as if the events of 1989 would reside, like the yellow monument at the back of this composition, forever on the horizon of memory, there to be zoomed in or out upon at the viewer's will. In that sense the painting, and its unclear relation to the paper works that immediately followed June 4th, is an apt metaphor for transitions in Chinese art and society during the 1990s. Raw memory and reaction gives inevitably way to distant, stylized presentation, connected to the past only by tiny, fragile strands of red.

[1] Karen Smith, Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China, Scalo, 2003, p. 282.

[2] Ibid., 285

medium

Oil on canvas, framed

creator

Zhang Xiaogang B. 1958

dimensions

98.6 by 128 cm. 38 7/8 by 50 3/8 in.


*Nota: il prezzo non corrisponde al valore odierno, ma si riferisce soltanto al reale prezzo di aggiudicazione al momento dell'acquisto.

*Nota: il prezzo non corrisponde al valore odierno, ma si riferisce soltanto al reale prezzo di aggiudicazione al momento dell'acquisto.


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