“I make paintings about painting.”
Born 1961, Beijing. Lives and works in Beijing and Taipei
As a teenager, Zhao Gang was one of the youngest member of the Stars, who in 1979 staged an influential, unauthorised exhibition outside the hallowed halls of the National Art Museum, instead hanging their works on the railings of Beihai Park. Zhao left China in 1983 to study in Europe and the United States and became an American citizen. living in New York for more than twenty years before his return to China in 2006. His image sources are often historical paintings and photographs, which he recreates in a style influenced by western Modernism, often with a provocative twist. Untitled (2006) is an intentionally satirical reference to paintings of bamboo by Xu Beihong, one of China’s first socialist-realist painters and a pillar of the Party. As head of the All-China Artists’ Association, he once wielded immense power over other artists, and Zhao believes his influence on Chinese art was destructive. In Zhao Gang’s hands, Xu Beihong’s stalks of bamboo morph into chimneys belching clouds of smoke—a comment on both China’s industrialising present and its repressive past.