Saatchi Gallery/ Blogon
ZHANG O: SAATCHI ONLINE CRITIC’S CHOICE
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— By REBECCA WILSON
Zhang O was born in Guangzhou, China in November 1976 and grew up in a small village in Hunan for seven years. In 1996 she began a BA in Fine Art at the Central Academy of Art, Beijing, and in 2004 moved to London to do an MA in Photography at Royal College of Art. Since 2005 she has been living in New York.
Living in different cities and experiencing different cultures informs much of Zhang O’s practice as an artist. Until the age of seven she was brought up in an impoverished and remote village in Hunan province. During the Cultural Revolution, her parents, who were English translators, were sent to Jishou to be re-educated as peasants on a pineapple farm. Even though life was hard, it is this childhood experience of rural China that Zhang O says has been the basis of her “aesthetic development”.
For her series ‘Daddy & I’ Zhang O photographed young Chinese girls with their adopted Western fathers, giving us a glimpse of their new lives in America. Most of the photographs are taken in idyllic, lush-looking gardens with beautiful trees laden with blossom and yet our response to these pictures is somewhat awkward and tinged with uncertainties about young girls being exploited by older men. It isn’t necessarily apparent that the men in these photographs are the girls’ fathers, which suggests what will be an ongoing question faced by these young Chinese girls – how will people in America react to them, how will it affect their lives being brought up by American adopted parents, how will their lives turn out in a new country, away from the country in which they were born? Zhang has said of the series: “To me, those adopted girls symbolize the future of China. Will it be a rebellious force to the west or simply remain as an innocent adopted posture (as adopting capitalism)?”
Zhang O has shown her work at the Kunsthalle Museum in Hamburg, the Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai, Kunstmuseum in Bern, Folkwang Museum in Essen, and she has had several solo shows at the Pekin Fine Art Gallery in Beijing.