xecuted from 1989 to 1990, Zhang Xiaogang’s The Dark Trilogy: Fear, Meditation, Sorrow, is a singular historical meditation, at once personal and monumental, by one of the most established Chinese contemporary artists of our generation. The elegiac triptych, one of only two recorded among his early works, speaks to the sequential themes
of terror, contemplation and melancholic acceptance. Seared with a haunting immediacy, the paintings shed the romantic lyricism of Zhang’s earlier works, revealing a condensed iconography that paved the way for his Bloodline series. This pivotal masterpiece will be presented and offered in its entirety as a triptych for the first time since the early 1990s, coming from the prestigious collection of Chinese contemporary art collector Johnson Chang.
- 1. History and Contemporaneity
- 2. The Body
- 3. Illusion and Reality
- 4. The Stage
- 5. The Letters
History and ContemporaneityA baby’s pale, bodiless head introduces opposing themes of life and death. This is accompanied by a parallel composition contrasting a contemporary newspaper with a book of history.
The BodyThe use of bodiless heads and severed limbs heightens the emotional intensity. Each gesture and facial expression is imbued with extraordinary weight, as in the heads and hands of El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.
Illusion and RealityThe fabric collage – inspired by Antoni Tàpies – and raised impasto in Zhang’s work extends pictorial space into real space, intensifying the palpability of emotions in the process.
The StageZhang worked as a scene painter in a theatre troupe in the 1980s. The stage finds its way into his early works: each panel features a white stage, theatrical lighting and red fabric reminiscent of curtains.
The LettersZhang wrote endless letters and diaries, and, at the time this triptych was created, letters were his only connection to the outside world. In Sorrow, a real envelope is incorporated
into the canvas.
The Contemporary Art Evening Sale will be live streamed on 6 October at 7pm. Viewers will be able to access the multi-camera auction on the page linked below.