HONG CHUN ZHANG – Chinese American Painter/Drawer
Hong Chun Zhang was born in the Shenyang, China and currently resides in Kansas. Zhang grew up within an artistic family. Both of her parents were art professors and her two sisters are also successful artists. Zhang began her artistic studies with her twin sister, Bo, at a young age and both girls attended the high school attached to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In 1996 Zhang moved to the United States to continue her education at the University of California in Davis, CA. She has remained in the United States ever since.
Zhang’s work often focuses on cultural identity and the connections she shares with her family. Her influences stem from her own experiences growing up in China, her family and her current home in the United States. In interviews she discusses the differences between working as an artist in China and in the United States. In China Zhang was exposed to cultural and traditional artistic techniques as a part of her artistic training, but in the United States she is less confined in her artistic subjects and concepts as well as access to materials not readily available in China. Through her work she finds ways to connect her dual cultural experiences that
Two thought provoking series, “Three Generations” and “The Long Hair”, has been bringing her plenty of recent attention and success in the art world.
“The long Hair” series are divided into two categories. One is a series of beautiful and impeccable charcoal drawings of long gorgeous black hair. The drawings are larger than life in size and the image of hair very appealing. The drawings are hair portraits of Zhang and of her sisters. The drawings represent the connection between hair and culture, between her and her sisters, and the beauty of long hair. From a distance they appear to be photographic it is not until you come closer that you can appreciate and see the charming detail of charcoal. The images are drawn on large paper scroll, another connection to her creative heritage.
The other category of the “Long Hair” series focuses more on the repulsive side of hair, another cultural connection we have with hair, with a bit a sense of humor. Hair is seen as being beautiful when it is clean and existing only where we want it to. When an individual comes across a strand of hair in his or her food, clogging a sink, or on the floor it becomes something that is repulsive and unappealing.
In an interview with Leslie VonHolton, Zhang explains how she wanted to address the dual perspective and cultural connection with hair
“Somebody with long hair is beautiful, but when you see hair in your food or in your sink, it becomes very gross,” Zhang explained. “I wanted to address the repulsive aspect of hair. I also wanted the subtle surrealism and humor.”
– Hong Chun Zhang
With the portrait series titled “Three Generations” Zhang focuses her attention on the connections with her mother and with her grandmother. The portraits depict the individual and generational connection each of the women have with their Chinese culture. Zhang’s Grandmother is completely confined inside the birdcage with her feet bound, while her mother has a little more freedom but still limited by the mid century communist party. Zhang depicts herself outside the cage with a considerable amount of freedom compared to the first two generations, but still limited by present day ‘one child’ regulations.
What I love about Zhang’s work is how she balances the thoughtful perspective and ‘connection’ behind her work with some sense of humor and plenty of elegance. I came across her work not too long ago and she is already one of my favorite contemporary artists.
for more information please visit the links below:
Hong Chun Zhang – Zhang’s personal website. See more of her work.
B. Sakata Garo – Article about the Zhang sisters
Lawrence.com – Article by Leslie VonHolton
La Grange – University paper