neděle 22. března 2015

Zhang Xiaogang- Girl and Plum

Zhang Xiaogang -Plum and Girl
Image source: .

This week huge city-light posters began to pop up all around Prague with an image by Zhang Xiaogang. This pre-eminent Chinese painter who has an enormous following abroad is almost unknown in the Czech Republic.
 A quick search on the internet led me to Galerie Zdeněk Sklenář, which had mysteriously disappeared more than a year ago from their premises on the embankment near the National Theater.I had visited this gallery tiny gallery for years as they always had very well curated exhibitions of mostly Czech but also a few foreign artists. As the gallery was just had 2 small rooms the selection always perfectly captured the subject or author on display. One could view they entire exhibit during a short break. The gallery eventually expanded to spaces next door but was relatively unknown. The opening hours were not exactly standard and when I once inquired if they had a website, I was told that there was nothing like that in a very condescending and definite tone. Later Mr. Sklenář did get a website and has kept his sharp curatorial eye.

The original inspiration for the image

This time during my visit I was met by a very nice and communicative young lady who gave me a lot of interesting information. The gallery had moved out of its previous location due to a gas accident but was still active. The gallery is now tucked away in Salvátorská Street, right behind Pařížská in an equally tiny space with great light.

A bit of the gallery

After many trips to China and years of nurturing relations Mr. Sklenář was able to persuade Zhang Xiaogang to show his work in the Czech Republic. The result is -Plum and Girl, a series of 99 color works paper from a single copperplate image. Thanks to the copperplate technique each image has slightly different color shading in places. The painter even visited Prague for a private viewing last year.

The copperplate

In keeping with the slightly sad looking characters in his painting Mr. Xiaogang chose the image of an unsmiling young girl with a blossoming plum tree branch behind her. A branch in bloom is a staple of ancient Chinese art while the somber expression of the girl maybe hints at something more recent. His depictions of serious faced Chinese in stark dress might be derived from his upbringing during the Cultural Revolution and the turbulent times that followed. Many of these paintings can resonate with an older Czech audience as they have certain similarities with communist socialist realism paintings of the 1950’s.

Plum and Girl over and over

The images which are being sold for a king’s ransom are displayed grouped together, giving a repetitive impression of uniformity so common under communism

Although Galerie Zdeněk Sklenář is one of the first to bring the work of Zhang Xiaogang to the Czech public he has also  organized exhibitions of Czech artists such as Milan Grygar in China.
I wonder what next this gallery will introduce to the local art crowd.

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