ill. 5.45 b (set: 5.45)
Zhang Chenchu (1973-) 张晨初
internet file, colour original source: oil painting, colour
Zhang Chenchu, Red is the East Series, 2007 (DACHS 2008 Mao Images 2, no. 122), Heidelberg catalogue entry
Mao Zedong, Mao portrait, repitition, Red is the East, Chinese avantgarde, Mao memories, Mao´s words, iconography
Zhang Chenchu: Red is the East Series: Red China (Zhang Chenchu: Dongfang hong xilie 张晨初: 东方红系列)
Repetitions of the Mao portrait in the work of a much younger artist, Zhang Chenchu 张晨初 (1973–), may illustrate that many a generation of artists in China, even those who hardly knew Mao, the man, during his lifetime, reflect upon being confronted by his portrait in their art. In his 2007 painting series entitled in English Eastern Red Series (东方红系列) which, more literally, would be translated as Red Is the East Series, Zhang presents a set of oil paintings reduced in colors to grey, red, white, and black, presenting Mao at different ages in black and grey before a bright red background. Mao’s portrait is, in each case, strangely shadowed over, except for a small stretch of light (as if a flashlight) in the form of a bar running right through the middle of his face (see ill. 5.45a & ill. 5.45b).
Even for this generation, who hardly experienced life under Mao, he remains an object of honest engagement, if not devotion. The Eastern Red Series, though it seems to present Mao as persistently negotiated, could not be more different from a series of Bush portraits Zhang Chenchu painted in 2008. This latter series openly ridicules and satirizes Bush in a very direct manner by showing him with rather fatuitous smiles and features (ill. 5.45c).