*1958 in Kunming, China
Zhang Xiaoghang was born in 1958 in the city of Kungming in the Chinese province of Yunnan. His parents encouraged him to become involved with art at an early age – their main concern was to keep their son at home and out of trouble. He grew up during the political upheavals of the 1960s and 70s, known as the Cultural Revolution, a period that continues to influence his oeuvre to this day. After his studies at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, the hoped-for apprenticeship did not materialize and Xiaogang fell into a severe depression, suffered from alcoholism and was hospitalized. This rather dark period of his life influences some of his works as well.
Inspired by family photos from the time of the Cultural Revolution and the European tradition of Surrealism, his works deal with the concept of identity within the Chinese culture of collectivism. In his portraits in different shades of grey, Xiaogang depicts a never-ending abundance of “family” – immediate, extended, and the social – figures that resemble each other in a disturbing way, yet differ from each other by tiny differences. In the “Bloodline” series, which made the contemporary artist world famous almost overnight, all the characters are a variation of his own mother, although he does not assign them any gender.
Not only the nameless and timeless figures, but also a number of symbols appear again and again in his works, especially in the series “Amnesia and Memory”. The red baby, with which he recalls all his memories of decades of repressed childhood – a contrast between a positive symbol of life and the strict one-child policy in China or the television, which serves both information and propaganda purposes, are striking examples.