Friday, December 01, 2006

Zhang Xiaogang: I can't be happy-happy-joy-joy.

Here's part of something I flipped to while reading the newspapers this morning (the Oriental Morning Papers). It's basically an interview between that newspaper agency and Zhang and post.
Xiaogang (the artist who drew the Bloodline series). Here are some excerpts I chose to translate
Press: for an artist, there usually is a primary creative masterstroke, what do you think is yours?
Zhang: From an artistic perspective, there is a keynote that I have not changed, that is, I can't draw vibrant and radiant things and I also can't draw pure abstract art. I've always been keen on my inner emotions or an individual in a unique social background and the mutual relationship formed. Sometimes it leans towards collective memory, sometimes it leans towards private individual space.

Press: Many people are interested in your 1998 "Big Family" series. They believe that this is your best series of works and critics also believe that during this period your creative talent was at its zenith. What do you think?
Zhang: For me, I will earnestly and wholeheartedly complete each painting, and the artworks around 1994-5 were the ones I spent most effort on. But my technique wasn't mature yet. In comparison, works produced after 1998 all have matured techniques and ideas and after 2000 I drew less. Personally Speaking, a collector's evaluation may have a certain purpose behind it. However, speaking as an artist, if I draw "Big Family" now, I believe I would do a better job because I have matured more in all aspects.

Press: During the 90's your creative style was always changing, "Big Family" series seemed to be the turning point.
Zhang: I have a habit. At the end of every year I will look back and see what aspects need improvement. After many years of such self-reflection, especially after 1990, I realized that I had too many previous styles and that I should find a suitable path for myself. I am not suitable to be a cultural artist or one who expresses himself only through material language. That is why during the whole year of 92 I did not draw at all, rather, I took this opportunity to visit Europe for 3 months. I visited museums and galleries every day trying to find feeling. It was then that I realized, after seeing Western masterpieces up close, that my own experience, cultural background, and artistic understanding are all completely different. I decided to stride a relatively Chinese path. I also enjoy superrealism and pay attention to human experience and subconcious. Since then I've followed this train of thought, but it sure was a challenge for me. By incorporating completely private and public things and bringing a relationship between the two, I returned to China and it became the "Big Family" series.

Press: Do you believe art can also be made into a brandname?
Zhang: When your art is exhibited, everyone is walking and looking, so you need to let others know in 1 minute what you are drawing, how to attract their attention, how to explain clearly what you drew in a brief moment, now that is what I mean. But more importantly for me, making art into a brandname lets others remember you and that is how you can express yourself. In 1999 I suggested artistic brandnames during an interview. Many people didn't agree when I used this marketing term, they still believe art is something solemn.

There are more segments to the interview but the above ones I believed had a lot of relevancy to our course and relevant issues. That, and the fact that some of the remaining interview segments I had a hard time understanding, much less translating.

P.S. I wasn't sure about this, so I translated his series "Da Jia Ting" literally to "Big Family," but I think Defne mentioned in one class that for marketing purposes it is called "Bloodline." I would love it if Defne can confirm this (unfortunately I don't think Comment works thanks to PRC censorship).

1 comment:

cardinale said...

Yes, according to author Karen Smith, Zhang Xiaogang's Bloodline series were titled by the director of Hong Kong-based Hanart TZ Gallery.