1992-1999 • Surrealistic Paintings
From 1992 until 1999, Zhang Gong’s paintings carried surrealistic implications, often depicting a young boy against an industrial backdrop. Zhang’s use of bright, bold colors and humorous metaphorical narrative style, illustrates his distinct personal style and expresses his concern for the transformation of Chinese society.
Left: Elements of Love | 1993 | Oil on canvas | 100x80.5cm
Middle: The Brave Tom | 1995 | Oil on canvas | 193.5x130cm
Right: Family Scene | 1992 | Oil on canvas | 227x181cm
Left: Happy Childhood | 1995 | Oil on canvas | 112x145cm
Right: Computer Virus No.4 | 1996 | Oil on canvas | 182x227cm
1999-2009 • devotion to animated films
1999-2009 was the decade when Zhang Gong devoted his artistry to hand-painted animated films. At the time, Zhang found that he had reached the limitations of painting, and turned to animated film because it was more effective in delivering messages to mass audiences. Over the span of 10 years, Zhang created five hand-painted animated films, which were highly praised in animation festivals held in Europe and Japan: Trees (2003), The Bird (2004), Black Pig, White Pig (2005), The Perturbation of Mind (2006) and Miss Red (2009).
2007 • relocation of cartoon characters in innovative background settings
In 2007, Zhang Gong resumed his career in painting, putting cartoon characters in recreated settings, opening to the audience different scenes that are both familiar and unprecedented. In some cases, he also applies classic masterpieces from the history of Western art in the creation of this series and gives such masterpieces new interpretations. Cartoon characters applied include: Disney cartoons, Mickey Mouse, The Simpsons, Hello Kitty, etc., and animated cartoon characters created by Zhang Gong such as Ms Red and Ms Panda.
The Birth of Venus | 2007 | Acrylic on canvas | 100x190cm
Blue Disco 3 | 2011 | Acrylic on canvas | 60x75cm
Maja | 2008 | Acrylic on canvas | 112x145cm
Confrontation | 2009 | Acrylic on canvas | 120x220cm
2010 • Metropolis Series – Beijing and New York
In 2010, Zhang began to paint his Metropolis series, focusing on Beijing and New York as his subjects. After spending his childhood in Beijing, the modernization and industrialization of the city raised deep concerns for the artist. In the same year, Zhang Gong had his first visit to New York City where he was greatly impressed by the unique cityscape, and further considered the implications of urban life. The Metropolis series conveys Zhang’s reflections on history, culture and the contradictions of city life, in which civilization and material wealth are exciting, yet the crowded, fast-paced and intense environment creates anxiety and social barriers. In his paintings, Zhang uses cartoon characters as a metaphor for people in reality.
Harmony Enters Beijing | 2011 | Acrylic on canvas | 75x60cm
Weekend in New York | 2011 | Acrylic on canvas | 60x75cm
Tower of Babel | 2011 | Acrylic on canvas | 112x145cm
New York Morning | 2011 | Acrylic on canvas | 54x65cm
2017-2018 • Garden of Eden Series
In his recent series, Zhang exercises his unbound imagination through allegorical narrative style. He often uses animals and plants to symbolize people facing society’s rapid transformation and religious symbols appear frequently. While the façade of his works are peaceful, playful and vivid in color, Zhang alludes to the doubts and anxieties that are hidden beneath, alluding to the reality of life.
Sentimental Garden | 2018 | Acrylic on canvas | 140×344cm
Mr. Godot Will Definitely Come Tomorrow | 2017 | Acrylic on canvas | 95×110cm
Zhang Gong’s Beijing No. 3 represents every aspect of Beijing in detail, such as the bustling cityscape, the streets teeming with traffic, the sprawling blocks of buildings, and the monumental archways dismantled by large machine tools. Although the artist did not represent the cityscape in a photorealistic way, the viewers who are vaguely familiar with this city can still sense the endemic ambience of Beijing. Through this work, Zhang attempted more to convey his subjective feelings about the space than to reflect the general appearance of the city. This work incorporates not only the realities of Beijing but also the artist’s memories, feelings and wishes about the place where he spent his childhood. Despite the clamor and crowdedness of the city, we can still see the bright daylight shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow if we look up at the sky.
Excerpt from Zhang Gong: A Personal Posture in the City, by Sun Xiao-tung, 2014
Zhang Gong has been obsessed with artistic creations concerning urban cities.Zhang delineates architectures, streets, traffics, characters and stories happened in the cities with an unusual calmness. When we read the pictures in depth, it is very interesting to realize that the cities portrayed by the artist are very familiar yet particularly unfamiliar, whether or not it is Beijing, a place that I know very well, or any other cosmopolitan cities in the world…Perhaps the artist is not interested in an accurate drawing but the juxtapositional impressions of the city. This could be considered as a concentrated portraiture of the city.
Liu Ye, Artist, 2014
Zhang Gong’s attention to the details is connate. The whole pictures of his works are filled with imperturbable details. These details are like self-replicating under a Zhang Gong’s style of reasoning to represent a big world: it seems that we could see every single pieces of brick as if we are able to grasp the textures of the entire city. We crawl from one building to another forever without an end. In the pictures that accommodated thousands of constituents, we may come to realize that there is no redundant detail. It seems that we have left behind our footprints in the pictures when we travel through.
Excerpt from The Innumerable Details : Zhang Gong’s paintings, Shao Fan, 2014