embroidery on fabric
100 x 80 cm
George W. Bush (paired with a twin portrait of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao) grins broadly in front of a backdrop of embroidered floral motifs, cars and a cucumber. The floral motifs reference the traditions of embroidery practised by the artist’s mother, the cars symbolise China’s transition from a primarily agricultural society to an urban modernity, and the absurd positioning of the somewhat phallic cucumbers over the heads of the two leaders was intended, says Chang to ‘mock the officials who are vulgar in nature but are pretending to be so refined and cultured’. Bush wears a bright satin Chinese jacket, looking as awkward in it as world leaders always do when they don ‘national dress’ and pose for photographers. Chang Xugong was associated with the ‘Gaudy Art’ movement centred in the artistic enclave of Yuanmingyuan near Beijing’s Old Summer Palace, a movement so named by critic Li Xianting. The ‘Gaudy’ artists satirised the ‘get rich quick’ mentality prevalent in Chinese society in the 1990s, after the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping ushered in an era of entrepreneurship and prompted a love of western consumer goods that signified high status. Chang’s embroidered portraits of figures from both ‘high’ and ‘low’ ends of the social spectrum deliberately evoked the garish advertising of the period, as well as referencing the bright colours of folk arts such as embroidery and woodcuts.