Executed in 2006, Untitled by Zhang Xiaogang ranks as one of the most significant and mature work from the artist's Amnesia and Memory Series. In 2003, ten years after starting his Bloodline Series, Zhang embarked on this new series in order explore the conscious and unconscious struggles between remembering and forgetting. As time passes, memories become more subjective as individuals revise their private and public history suppressing what is unwanted. Untitled captivatingly depicts a boy with eyes wide open as if startled by what he recalls.
Unlike the photographic snapshots of staged figures in Zhang's Bloodline Series, this idealized close-up of a boy's lonesome face triggers a dialogue of visual memories on many levels. Zhang's Bloodline Series portraitures, inspired by Cultural Revolution photos, wrestle between the relationships of memory, experience, and history, and when first exhibited at the 22nd International Sao Paulo Biennale (1994) and then the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995, they were met with overwhelming international recognition. Zhang's paintings gave a voice to a collective pain that was repressed within the artist and the larger society. In this more recent series, Zhang focuses intimately on the individual and their dream-like states of mind.
In Untitled, a soft yellow patch of light covers the left eye of the boy and symbolizes a scar or trauma blocking a deeper self-awareness. Zhang also applied similar patches in his Bloodline Series. These traumas, inflicted on individuals and a society during the darkest periods of Chinese history, remain as an ever present specter in Zhang's current paintings. The individual is now quietly left to struggle with the suppressed memories from his or her shared collective history.
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