Embroidered Portrait Series: Premier Wen Jiabao

Chang Xugong


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embroidery on fabric
100 x 80 cm
Wen Jiabao served as the sixth Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China between 2003 and 2013. He was considered something of a reformer, and a leader of economic policy that resulted in increasing wealth being more widely dispersed across the country. Here, a surprisingly happy, laughing version of the more often dour Chinese premier wears a gaudy red satin jacket and stands in front of motifs of flowers and cars, symbolising the growth of the aspirational middle class in a newly modernized urban China that Chang Xugong satirises in his ‘Gaudy Art’ embroidered portraits. The floral motifs recall the artist’s own rural past, and the traditions of embroidery and textiles throughout China, while the phallic cucumber positioned over the leader’s head reveals Chang’s satirical intention: he chose George W. Bush and Wen Jiabao as his subjects because, he says, they symbolise both Chinese and Western culture, and the ‘dirty transactions’ made between international politicians who use tradition and culture as ‘props’ in their political games.
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