Guang Zhi Zhang (Zhang Guang Zhi, 张广志) Bio
Born in the late 1940's, in a small village in the north of China, Guang Zhi Zhang believed that through hard work, he would be able to get into a good college and make a good life for himself. Then, came Mao, the Red Guard, a closed China, and the cultural revolution. Part of the cultural revolution was rejection of academics and academia, as bourgeois, so college was out by the time he became of age. So, he joined the Red Guard group, which was a student semi-activist youth group, and his job was to post news on "news blackboards" (newspapers were also uncommon, at the time, and the news was conveyed and written up on blackboards in the village square).
He was admired for the drawings he drew on the boards and was asked to paint a portrait to honor Chairman Mao. Even though he had never worked with colors, before, he created, not only a beautiful portrait of the chairman, but also one that was gargantuan, in size, measuring a full eight meters high, all from just a photo of Mao. That eventually led to an offer to join the Red Army and paint for the cause. That, in itself, was fortuitous, as art, in China, during those years, was much like art in the U.S.S.R.: it was only done to emulate the state. Also, as a result of his time in the army, he was allowed to attend special courses at Lu Xun Art Institute and, thereafter, went to France to get a Master of Fine Arts degree, under Claude Yvel, who is a master of the Trompe L'oeil style of painting, which is extreme realism in which the objects in the painting are made to look real, not painted.
Today, Guang Zhi Zhang still paints and is still part of the government, working in the ministry of culture, in his hometown. He paints in both realistic and impressionistic styles (he tells us that it depends on his mood and on the subject matter).