Zhang Xiaogang – A Big Family


Inspired by family photos from the Cultural Revolution period, as well as the European tradition of surrealism, Zhang Xiaogang’s paintings engage with the notion of identity within the Chinese culture of collectivism. Basing his work around the concept of ‘family’ –immediate, extended, and societal – Xiaogang’s portraits depict an endless genealogy of imagined forebears and progenitors, each unnervingly similar and distinguished by minute difference.

Often painted in black and white, Xiaogang’s portraits translate the language of photography into paint. Drawing from the generic quality of formal photo studio poses and greyscale palette, Xiaogang’s figures are nameless and timeless: a series of individual histories represented within the strict confines of formula. The occasional splotches of color which interrupt his images create aberrant demarcations, reminiscent of birthmarks, aged film, social stigma, or a lingering sense of the sitter’s self-assertion.


Zhang Xiaogang – A Big Family
Oil on canvas
179 x 229 cm