Having grown up during the Cultural Revolution, Zhang Xiaogang explores themes of memory and individual identity in the context of Chinese collectivism.
After initially working in an expressionist style with a surrealist iconography, in 1993 Xiaogang began a series of portraits, Bloodline – A Big Family,which made him famous internationally. Inspired by family photographs from the Mao era, these grey portraits depict besuited individuals with similar, impassive faces, their outlines blurred, their large eyes misty. Red lines that symbolise blood ties and affiliations to the "big Chinese family" link the figures, while slight variations in hairstyles and coloured marks on their faces suggest individuality and inner wounds. Xiaogang’s melancholic vision of the world then turned to landscapes and paintings of objects in the series Amnesia and Remembrance.