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Zhang Xiaogang in his works draws on memories of life during the Cultural Revolution, which evoke his Surrealist inspirations. Raising to international prominence in the 1990s as a quintessential exponent of the Chinese contemporary art scene, Xiaogang is mostly known for his “Bloodline: Big Family” series. Within these works, the Chinese artist explores the concept of family and collectivism in Chinese society.
"There’s a complex relationship between the state and the people that I could express by using the Cultural Revolution. China is like a family, a big family. Everyone has to rely on each other and to confront each other." —Zhang Xiaogang
Memory is the epicenter of Zhang Xiaofang's work, living in a country like China, whose political and social turbulences estranged its soul. The edition of My Memory No. 1 is a prime example of Zhang's series Amnesia and Memory which the artist began in 2002, featuring close-up portraits of single persons, strongly focusing on faces while concealing all recognizable backgrounds. In My Memory No. 1 the monochromatic, washed centered face of the genderless protagonist child is stripped away from any hints of his/or her personality or identities. The shimmering teardrops at the corner of the child's eyes are telling evidence of an ongoing dream – that no one else can interfere, or perhaps tears of fear and pain.
The monochromatic palette contrasts with the pink face. This reminds us of the conventional black and white photographs, occasionally hand-coloured. The daub of pastel red cast on the child’s right cheek resembles a light hitting his face or a birthmark, furthering the sense of mysteriousness. The smudge is connected with a red line, which is a characteristic of Zhang's mature work, a borrowing from the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.