charcoal and graphite on paper
907 x 152.5 cm
Zhang Chun Hong’s Life Strands is an 11-metre long paper scroll with an immensely detailed charcoal and graphite drawing of a woman’s long plait. Zhang, who says that her own long hair has become part of her identity, has worked with hair imagery since 2003, exploring its connections both with beauty and also with the abject. The work is drawn in the meticulous method of the gongbi painting technique of the imperial courts, in which every stroke and mark creates an image of perfection. In her work hair is a metaphor, sometimes focused on youth and vitality, sometimes showing the ravages of time. Sometimes seductive, even erotic, at other times with darker meanings. Zhang’s work raises questions about representation, simulation and the ways that meanings can be hidden in apparently innocuous subject matter. This is not a new feature of Chinese art – Imperial ink-painting masters were also adept at concealing the true meanings of their works. Zhang says her hair drawings are about ‘humour, beauty and repulsion’, but in the end the message is a reminder of mortality.