Chinese contemporary artist Zhang Hongtu, famed for his iconic Mao Quaker Oats images and for subverting traditional icons, takes on China’s greatest burden today — environmental pollution and the downside of development.
Two paintings from Long Live Chairman Mao series (1989
Last Banquet, by Zhang Hongtu (1989)
Mao Dang Lao, in cast bronze (2002)
Left: Original 12th century painting by Ma Yuan. Right: The same view in Zhang Hongtu’s modern water-pollution series (2009)
Recently Zhang has focused on painting China’s polluted landscapes, using news reports and photographs as inspiration. As he explains, dyes from textile factories dumped into rivers across China turns waters a lurid purple. “There is something beautiful in the color,” he says, “but there is also something wrong with the beauty.”