Zhigang Zhang’s Peaceful Illustrations Preserve Fleeting Moments of Daily Life

During her studies, Zhigang began to use color to communicate mood and atmosphere. Rather than natural colors, the illustrator began using red for his characters’ skin tones. “I think it’s the most appropriate color for me to express the character’s emotions and feelings,” he explains. This is certainly the case in his Malatang series. In one particularly atmospheric piece, a woman brings a spoon to her mouth, and as the food enters her body, her pleasure seems to radiate through her skin with a warm glow.

The Malatang series is close to Zhigang’s heart. For young people, “life is very hard in China,” says the illustrator. “They work so hard with long hours in order to earn money for their families and pay high mortgages.” But, says Zhigang, it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, a moment of pure delight in the day comes from eating “malatang,” “the most popular food in China.” For his series, he wanted to capture the meditative moments of joy he witnessed when he went to watch hungry people devour bowls of it every Sunday in his hometown. Often enjoying a bowl himself on these excursions, Zhigang feels “at one” with the people he draws.

While everyday life is Zhigang’s main source of inspiration, he also likes to weave fragments of memory into his work, sometimes considering more “surreal” themes. A fine example is his recent piece for Palermitan Magazine, a zine based in the city of Palermo which was his first cover illustration commission. The magazine is dedicated to collecting visual concepts based on the romantic seaside town of Palermo in Italy. In response to the whimsical brief, Zhigang tapped into his childhood memories. The illustration depicts a little boy standing on a pier, using a magical telescope to observe sea life beneath the waves. With a swathe of bright yellow perfectly communicating the joy of the piece, Zhigang demonstrates her marvelous ability to transform an everyday moment into beautiful, contemplative works of art. For him, the piece is “a happy symbol of my childhood”.

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