“The spirit of the era is documented in these bodies.”
Born 1963, Harbin, Heilongjiang
Zhang Dali has made a series of works about the plight of the millions of peasants who have moved to China’s burgeoning cities in the hope of making enough money to change their lives. In Chinese Offspring (2005), life-size resin sculptures made from the naked bodies of 30 such migrant workers, numbered and branded with the artist’s signature, are hung like carcasses from the gallery ceiling. In Square (2014), a series of works inspired by the 1989 Tiananmen incident, doves settle on the limbs and heads of white sculptures of migrant workers. In both works the workers’ eyes are closed, their expressions pained or stoical. The artist has also made an intensive study of the cyanotype process, in which fabrics steeped in cyanide salts produce photographic images when exposed to light. His Life 3 (2011), almost three metres square, is a particularly ambitious result. For the Square series, he went an audacious step further, making blue-and-white oil paintings of flocking doves that from a distance are startlingly similar to cyanotypes. Where the sculptures bespeak resignation, these paintings convey hope.