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News & Insight

Must See Exhibition: Tian Taiquan’s Memory of Time

By Ruth Dunn on March 16th 2013

Leading Chinese photographic artist, Tian Taiquan, uses photography as a powerful means to bring lost memories and histories into focus. In “Memory of Time”, an exhibition currently showing at Brisbane’s Hayward Fine Art gallery, Taiquan’s photographic montages are set against the historical backdrop of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

In contemporary Chinese society, Mao’s Cultural Revolution is a distant past, often buried rather than acknowledged. Taiquan’s large scale photographic works refuse to allow this past to be buried as he brings the brutality, loss and pain of this not so distant part of Chinese history into focus.

Though Taiquan chooses not to explain his work, preferring instead to let the viewer explore the works for themselves, the power and clarity of his images give the viewer a solid platform for understanding his ideas.

From Tian Taiquan's "Marks" series.

From Tian Taiquan’s “Marks” series.

His artworks are powerful on a number of levels. Firstly, as a young boy Taiquan became a member of the “Red Guards”, a youth movement formed and brainwashed by Mao. As such, Taiquan witnessed the destruction of China’s old customs, old culture, old habits and old ideas. He uses the vivid and documentary nature of photography to open a window to his memories, ideas and feelings.

The high definition of the photographs, attention to detail and careful choice of lighting also contribute to the power of these artworks. The soft, porcelain skin of the bodies, rough surface of the stone and thick material of the Red Guard uniforms can almost be felt by the viewer as they take in these large scale scenes.

The contrast between the soft, beautiful skin of the women and the rough stone as well as the violence inflicted on these women implies a statement about the brutality inflicted on innocence and beauty during Mao’s reign. While millions of people were brutally cast aside by Mao, Taiquan has carefully used his lens to capture and stage these women in order to acknowledge the pain and memory of these people.



Bob Hayward, Owner of Hayward Fine Art says:

“With China being such a heavily controlled society the artist really has so much that he can express. I think there is a lot more to the artwork than just a politically toned message but I feel that the artist is expressing dismay at the terrible things that happened in the past, exerting pressure for change within various elements of the work, and like a lot of artists he is leading the way by insisting on change in society for the betterment of the ordinary person.”

“Memory of Time” gives the viewer a deep and personal insight into China’s history through the eyes of an artist who witnessed and experienced this painful history first hand. It is a beautiful collection of artworks, a memorial to those forgotten and an example of the power of photography.

For more information about Hayward Fine Art go to For more information about Tian Taiquan visit

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Ruth is a Brisbane based journalist specialising in articles about visual art, photography, design and fashion. Co-founder of Raw Ink magazine, she enjoys uncovering interesting and unique events, issues and people to write about.

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