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The initial inspiration for Zhang Xiaogang’s ‘Bloodline’ series was the artist’s discovery of a photograph of his mother as a young woman. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), family photographs were often lost or destroyed in the fervour of denouncing the past, making those that survived rare. Zhang took the imagery of the Cultural Revolution and the format of the family portrait and used them to explore the complex relationship of people to the state. In this painting, three figures of indeterminate gender and social class crowd out the canvas and loom over viewers, while the use of colour is as tightly controlled as their facial expressions. Uniting them are thin red threads, the ‘bloodlines’ of the title, expressing the ties that bind them to each other, to their ancestors, and to the larger notion of the collective or revolutionary ‘family’ of China.