Zhang Xiao GangWho is Zhang Xiao Gang?
Zhang Xiaogang is a contemporary Chinese symbolist and surrealist painter. Paintings in his Bloodline series are predominantly monochromatic, stylized portraits of Chinese people, usually with large, dark-pupiled eyes, posed in a stiff manner deliberately reminiscent of family portraits from the 1950s and 1960s. Recently, he also created sculptures, translating for the first time into three dimensions many characters of the sort seen in his "Bloodlines—Big Family" portrait series. These sculptures have featured in many exhibits and continue his work as one of China's leading, and most highly sought-after, contemporary artists.
How he started his interest in art
“From early on, my parents worried that I would go out and get into trouble. They gave us paper and crayons so we could draw at home. . . . I gained more and more interest in art. I had a lot of time, because I didn't have to go to school. My interest increased. After I became an adult, I never gave up art. So that's how I started to draw.”
His art education
Upon the reinstitution of collegiate entrance exams, Xiaogang was accepted into the Sichuan Academy of Fine arts in 1977 where he began study oil based painting in 1978. At the time of his collegiate education, Zhang's professors continued to teach styles of Revolutionary Realism as instituted by Chairman Mao. This only served to inspire Xiaogang and his peers to opt for topics of western philosophy and introspective individualism while shunning political and ideological subject matter.
In 1982, he graduated from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in the city of Chongqing in Sichuan province but was denied a teaching post he had hoped for. This led Zhang to fall into a period of depression between 1982-1985. During this time he worked as a construction worker and art director for a social dance troupe in Kunming. It was a time of intense self-examination for Xiaogang as he had difficulties fitting into society. Suffering from alcoholism, he was hospitalized in 1984 with alcohol induced internal bleeding causing him to paint "The Ghost Between Black and White" series which put visual form to his visions of life and death in the hospital.