“To me, Chinese contemporary art is like a bird let out of a cage.”
Born 1971, Shenyang, Liaoning
The daughter of art teachers and one of three sisters who are all artists, Zhang Chun Hong was schooled from an early age in the rigors of gongbi (literally “detailed strokes”), a style in which plants, birds, animals and insects are rendered with minute precision. The subject of Life Strands (2004) and many of Zhang Chun Hong’s other works is hair: in this case a single, riverine plait that cascades down the wall and across the floor. If it were not so large—more than 11 metres long—it might easily be mistaken for the real thing, lopped off and still hanging from the hairdresser’s scissors. The charcoal-and-pencil plait, set on a white scroll to reflect the interplay of yin and yang, covers not only much space but decades of time: thick and black at the top, it gradually fades to grey at the ends. Its creation also spanned a long time, requiring many thousands of individual strokes. While she applied them, Zhang Chun Hong was awaiting a visa to the United States; in 2006 it arrived, and she now lives in Lawrence, Kansas.