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Guang Zhi Zhang (Zhang Guang Zhi, 张广志) Bio

Born in the late 1940's, in a small village in the north of China, Guang Zhi Zhang believed that through hard work, he would be able to get into a good college and make a good life for himself.  Then, came Mao, the Red Guard, a closed China, and the cultural revolution.  Part of the cultural revolution was rejection of academics and academia, as bourgeois, so college was out by the time he became of age.  So, he joined the Red Guard group, which was a student semi-activist youth group, and his job was to post news on "news blackboards" (newspapers were also uncommon, at the time, and the news was conveyed and written up on blackboards in the village square).

He was admired for the drawings he drew on the boards and was asked to paint a portrait to honor Chairman Mao.  Even though he had never worked with colors, before, he created, not only a beautiful portrait of the chairman, but also one that was gargantuan, in size, measuring a full eight meters high, all from just a photo of Mao.  That eventually led to an offer to join the Red Army and paint for the cause.  That, in itself, was fortuitous, as art, in China, during those years, was much like art in the U.S.S.R.: it was only done to emulate the state.  Also, as a result of his time in the army, he was allowed to attend special courses at
Lu Xun Art Institute and, thereafter, went to France to get a Master of Fine Arts degree, under Claude Yvel, who is a master of the Trompe L'oeil style of painting, which is extreme realism in which the objects in the painting are made to look real, not painted.

Today, Guang Zhi Zhang still paints and is still part of the government, working in the ministry of culture, in his hometown.  He paints in both realistic and impressionistic styles (he tells us that it depends on his mood and on the subject matter). 
Catalogue Number   Price   Approximate size Button
"House with Car": painting by Guang Zhi Zhang 168. House with Car: original oil painting on canvas by Guang Zhi Zhang

The title belies the importance of that phrase, in today's China.  If people have a car, they must be very rich because, in terms of the undervalued Yuan, a car costs several hundred thousand Yuan because they are priced on international prices, which is more expensive than a house.  It is true social commentary art, but subtle.  It reminds me, both in honesty and in iconic value, of Grant Wood's "American Gothic", and paintings of common American life by Edward Hopper.  Trained by the famous French Trompe L'oeil artist, Claude Yvel, Guang Zhi Zhang can paint things very realistically; in this painting, the reality is the scene, itself, done in a more impressionistic painting style.  So, with the pitched-in-the-middle-of-nowhere house and the cell phone towers, in their backyard, the reality is that these people are rich enough to own a house and a car.  Even the car is perfect since a very popular car owned by many locals is the versatile white Jin Bei van, much like the one in the picture.  The blue trees give the piece a surrealistic feel, much as life can be, in modern China.  And I guess pop culture art has come to China.
 
  $2,500   80x53cm
               
The Corn Barn: painting by Guang Zhi Zhang 193. The Corn Barn: original oil painting on canvas by Guang Zhi Zhang (2007)

In China, stone and brick are still the common materials used to build structures of all sorts.  When you tour the countryside, you will see many tall brick smokestacks, the sign of a brickyard, marking wood-fired kilns.  The farm, in this lovely, colorful painting, has a two-story red brick storage barn for its corn, and other stone structures are still in the making.  It also has the hilly terrain that is so common, in China, and, as is also the case, in much of China, good use is made of the most unlikely land for a farm.  There are barnyard animals around the wall and some ducks in the stream, below.  This painting is done in an impressionistic style with bright colors and nice brushstrokes.
  
  $2,000   80x53cm
               
"Hometown Bridge": painting by Guang Zhi Zhang 143. Hometown Bridge: original oil painting on canvas by Guang Zhi Zhang (1998)

Guang Zhi Zhang is also famous for his calligraphy, which is all about brushwork technique.  In this oil painting of a bridge, a stream, and a few buildings, he demonstrates his mastery of brushwork in the simple, impasto brushstrokes that create those images in this impressionistic style work.  The rich muted brown and gold colors of the bridge, the buildings, and the river bank are even more inviting when finished off with the bright blues and greens of the sky, the water and the grasses.  It is a truly wonderful painting that has the feel of one done by Van Gogh.  It measures 35 cm by 27 cm.  The price does not include framing.

$1,000 35x27 cm
               
Valley: painting by Guang Zhi Zhang   Valley: original oil painting by Guang Zhi Zhang (Zhang Guang Zhi)   sold      
               
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