Zhang Xiao

 

Zhang Xiao was born in 1981 in Yantai City, Shandong Province, China and graduated from the Department of Architecture and Design at Yantai University in 2005. He currently lives and works in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, China.

In 2009, Zhang Xiao began to photograph sections of China’s 18,000 kilometre coastline in a large body of work. Millions of people come from central China to the coastal areas for jobs ever year, to the new special economic zones created by the Chinese government, and this has transformed the coastline.

The impact on the coastline has been great with exceptional growth in urban development. Many photographers have chosen to document the vast industrialisation and construction of Chinese cities but Zhang Xiao was drawn to the coastal areas as it triggered many memories of childhood. He documents the sometimes inhuman nature of progress. At the same time, the work is not critical by its observation, with no explicit message that refutes China’s urbanisation efforts.


Zhang Xiao states:

“When I was a child, I knew my desire to the sea: the sea is mysterious and it cannot be approached. I still feel the same. I come here to seek for those strong emotions and rich imagery, and perhaps, there are also sentiments and disappointments. The sea is the beginning of lives and dreams, at the same time, I am looking for the homeland in my heart.”

The majority of the photographs show people at leisure by the coast. Holidaymakers are documented during summertime beneath clouded, and smog-coloured skies. Zhang Xiao makes careful observations and depicts his subjects with warmth towards their human condition. There is not a critical edge to the work but rather a captivation of the spirit of ordinary people at leisure in whatever physical circumstances that are presented. Crowded swimmers bob happily in their buoyancy rings on a murky sea while a paraglider flies overhead. A bride in her white wedding gown walks along a littered beach with a ship moored in the distance, pensive in her solitude. In other photos, intimate personal moments are juxtaposed with imaginably noisy expressways and airports that inch ever closer to the ocean.

“Coastline” still captures the beauty of the sea that intrigued Zhang in his childhood, be it in a slightly strange and bizarre way. By shooting on film and hand printing his photographs, he delivers the muted tones that are suggestive of the family photography of the past.


Zhang Xiao says of his work:

“These scenes are true reality, though they seem to be beyond our imagination.”


Coastline No.19”, 2009, 100 x 120 cm, Giclée Print, Courtesy of Blindspot Gallery, Shanghai


Coastline No.2”, 2009, 100 x 120 cm, Giclée Print, Courtesy of Blindspot Gallery, Shanghai


Coastline No.12”, 2009, 100 x 120 cm, Giclée Print, Courtesy of Blindspot Gallery, Shanghai


Coastline No.14”, 2009, 100 x 120 cm, Giclée Print, Courtesy of Blindspot Gallery, Shanghai


Coastline No.26”, 2009, 100 x 120 cm, Giclée Print, Courtesy of Blindspot Gallery, Shanghai


Coastline No.45”, 2009, 100 x 120 cm, Giclée Print, Courtesy of Blindspot Gallery, Shanghai


Coastline No.246”, 2009, 100 x 120 cm, Giclée Print, Courtesy of Blindspot Gallery, Shanghai