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100 Years (after Guo Jian)



100 Years (after Guo Jian), 12/25, 2018

hand coloured lithograph on cotton rag paper, unframed
70 x 70 cm

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I dreamt that Tank Man survived, that he lived a good and happy life and that he stands in the Chinese mountains watching over us.

Tank Man (Associated Press, Tiananmen Sq. 1989) overlooks a bleeding landscape (The Meat Land of a Country 山河, Guo Jian 郭健, 2017) captured within a wreath of poppy flowers. This porcelain plate, a souvenir, is an object that marks a time, a place and a set of values. And it is broken.

In 2017 I travelled to Beijing for the first time. I went wit¬¬¬h the intention of getting lost, of meeting artists and of making real the images of a place that I had lived through the television screen almost 30 years earlier. Guo Jian is a dear friend and we talked at length about this piece. It is his small painting that speaks so powerfully of a wounded place that formed the starting point for the composition.

The title refers to the ‘Century of Humiliation’ (百年国耻) China suffered at the hands of colonial forces and in particular the British Opium Wars. For better or worse, this period founded modern communist China and gave rise to an exodus of Chinese artists.

In 1989, the grainy images of a lone and unidentified man challenging a column of tanks had had a profound impact on the world, although practically unknown in China. They were images of hope at a time when the walls that separated ideologies appeared fragile and they were images that changed me.

The fate of Tank Man remains unknown.

Robert Hague. Aug 2018