Zhang Dazhong became an artist relatively late, in life. During the days of the cultural revolution, people did not go to college, as academia was stifled and shunned by the government. In the late 1980's, Zhang finally went to school and eventually got a masters of fine art from the Guangzhou Fine Arts Academy, which is even more of an accomplishment because he did not choose art as his field of undergraduate study, having chosen literature, instead. His painting career, then, began, in the 1990's. He was a starving artist for only a short time before one his paintings received national awards, and a Hong Kong gallery agreed to take him on. However, the gods, it seems, always want artists to suffer at bit more for their work, and, as a result of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the gallery closed. Still, Zhang DaZhong did not give up, although he did despair. He continued to paint, feverishly, even though his wife begged him to give up and get a real job. He painted night and day and peddled around the streets of Guangzhou with paintings on his bicycle trying to find a gallery that would take on his art. For all his effort, galleries refused, saying that oil paintings were not popular in China, and, then, one day when he woke up, his wife was gone.
Apparently, those galleries (and his first wife) were wrong. He finally got a second chance at success and fame when one of his paintings received a prize for excellence, in the "I Love My Country" Exhibition, in 2000. His paintings, now, sell in the range of tens of thousands of U. S. dollars, which, in terms of buying power of the Yuan, makes him a very successful and rich artist and man. He says that his studio is still filled with boxed noodles, but his new wife points out that his girth shows that he is no longer a starving artist.
In the new millennia, Da Zhong Zhang has become famous for his political art, featuring Red Guard girls. As part of the so-called Cultural Revolution of Mao, women were encouraged to not be women but to be part of the homogeneous, androgynous worker masses. Women wore loose-fitting clothing and hung their heads to hide their natural curves. Da Zhong, whose sister and her friends were real Red Guard girls when he was growing up, has taken offense with that whole issue, and he has painted a number of works featuring Red Guard girls in happy carefree atmospheres, not taking life so seriously as good Maoist comrades should, and with their curves accented, not hidden, by their Maoist garb, several of which we feature, in our on-line gallery, with several more, in the physical gallery, in Guangzhou. Da Zhong's ability in portraiture is top-notch, taking on an almost photographic quality. Today, there are collectors from Taiwan, Hong Kong, England, Indonesia and other distant places who come to Guangzhou, only for the purpose of seeing (and buying) his art. You can see more of his work on our website at: http://www.leonacraig.com/catalogue_art_gallery/wall_art/da_zhong_zhang_page.htm
Sitting in the lotus position, reading Mao's little red book, it is as if she is in prayer. It reminds me of how saints were portrayed in Italian Renaissance paintings. Mao is the golden sun, in Beijing, who brings hope of a new life to China. Of course, the life that he brought many of the Red Guard Girls and the rest of the people of China was not exactly what they had in their hopes and dreams.
I particularly like the red color, in her blanket, which is a new color that I have seen enter Zhang's palette, only recently. The sloppy mason work on the wall, in the background is a trademark of Chinese masons, something I see in every building.