TANG Zhigang


Artist’s Statement by Tang Zhigang

  This exhibition at Hanart TZ Gallery marks my first public solo show since 2009.  It can be described as a summary or encapsulation of my thoughts about art, life, and my own creative practice over the last five years. Those of us born in the 1950s were used to being labeled as the heirs of Socialism, ‘born into the New China and growing up under the Red Flag’.  But it was really our parents’ generation who were the true revolutionaries: our own kind of red seems more like a second-hand copy. The movies we watched, the slogans we learned, the revolutionary stories we listened to—all these were just games to make us feel that we had actually lived through the revolution, and that we too were burdened with the mission of liberating all mankind. Our generation grew up playing games imitating battle scenes from the Soviet propaganda film ‘Lenin in October’, but when we grew up we had to face the possibility of having to act out battles in real life. I wonder, is this a question of today playing games with yesterday? Or is it  yesterday that is playing games with today? Just after the art market bubble burst in 2008, painters collectively emerged from under the shadow of Duchamp and went back to ‘playing cards with Cezanne’. But the language of modernism is just a starting point. When I suffered from ill health five years ago, I became increasingly absorbed in landscape painting and sketching from nature. Placing myself amidst nature and its colours gave me a new kind of inspiration, and my experience is reflected in the language of the works in this exhibition. My past development was strongly impacted by the language of realism, and my compositions were largely pulled along by the narrative content. (As can be seen in my Children in Meeting series). By contrast, sketching in nature has allowed colour to liberate me, and helped me to develop a language to authentically confront my own spiritual issues and memories of the past….Myself as a child sheltering from the rain under the poncho of a PLA soldier on the high prison wall of the Kunyang Labour Camp; as a young soldier posing like a great hero on the scorched rocks on the beach at Beidahe; with eyes filled with regret as I said goodbye to my dying father; basking in the sun with a mangy dog on the battlefront at Laoshan; emerging as a dark horse in the art market in 2007; lying on my hospital bed and thinking about life and death in 2009…. For twenty years I have been painting a theme of childhood that is in a reincarnation of my own past, yet in the end I realize that ultimately it is about the drive to seek answers to fundamental philosophical questions about human life: where did we come from, where are we going?   Kunming Spring, 2015   (Translated by Valerie C. Doran)
Artist Statement
Critical Essays