Mao Portrait


Incense ash, charcoal and resin on canvas.

250 x 200 cm (98 7/16 x 78 3/4 in.)

Made in 2008, this giant black and white portrait of Mao Zedong lends the figure a sweet aura of nostalgia. This impression must be considered in relation to the painting’s use of incense ash recovered from Buddhist temples. The medium, here, is just as much a vehicle for meaning as the subject.

Incense ash carries the memory of China and the Chinese people, it is the incarnation and benediction of the soul of a nation”, explains Zhang Huan, who has been using it for large-scale paintings and sculptures since his conversion to Buddhism.

The work was first shown by the Pinault Collection at the "Le Monde vous appartient" (“The World Belongs to You”) exhibition (2011-2012) at the Palazzo Grassi.