《116 楼 310 房》和《天堂（老鼠）》等作品，是他的新作，这一类作品超出了与性有关系的感觉，扩展到对周围生活、社会现状的感觉。张小涛说“我所理解的北京‘新生活'是充满着青春的享乐主义和末世的颓废情绪。纵欲过度之后的糜烂图像是令人眩晕的，这些图像对于我来说充满着恐惧感和动荡不安。它们是我们荒诞生活微观片断的抽样放大，也是我们面对这个物质化的欲望社会从心理到生理的本能反应”。画面或许就是这个浮华世界，象酒醉后的眩晕景象，纸醉金迷，灯红酒绿，杯盘狼藉，狗偷鼠窃……
A striking aspect of Zhang Xiao Tao´s pictures is the way they fall into two categories. One of these is very sensual and the immediate impression they give is as if the haptic in sexuality is transposed into the visual. Here, creatures such as copulating frogs, fish, tadpoles and even condoms are chosen, and here also a particular technique catches our eye: a virtual, distemper treatment of the picture surface and also the abstract, lumpy forms resembling cells under the microscope. These appear in all his pictures; they are as it were witnesses to a specially skilled treatment: a technical hybrid of mucous-form and pale red or green patches of uneven sizes. The result is a strong impression as of developmental precipitations which seem to be swimming in a slimy fluid, and this treatment of these precipitations is the most important semantic factor of both this artist´s pictures and his life. Reactions are to be observed as if in a body after injuries, or deceased cells, viral-like clumps, suppurating wounds. Something is separated, isolated, organises itself and then appears – places itself upon the picture surface. The observer witnesses the exertions of the organic, its transience and sensitivity.
However, the pictures “Room 310, Building 116” (….) and “Paradise (Rat)” (….) are of a quite different and new type. These pictures go beyond feelings connected for instance to sexuality and reach into areas such as life, the environment and social conditions today. Zhang Xiao Tao himself says: “The new life in Beijing, as I see it, is full of youthful hedonism and a depressive mood. Disturbing scenes resembling a hangover after indulgences, giddiness, call up in me feelings of anxiety, unease, confusion. They resemble enlargements of the micro-interfaces of our grotesque life, but at the same time also as instinctive reactions that suggest themselves in view of our materialistically driven life.” These pictures are like an empty magnificent world after a drinking orgy: luxurious, sensual, exorbitant, extravagant, a resplendent mess after a feast or secretive indulgences.
These tables after the feast, rats, refuse, dirt, rotting sweets and cakes, depict again a type of picture language just as do the frogs and the goldfish in the category of “sensual pictures”. To me they appear as the internalization of the painter´s own picture language, (as do Xin Hai Zhou´s pictures). The painting in China´s art presents a sophisticated medium to creatively transpose Western realistic painting – that was introduced there in the last century - into a picture language with intrinsic values. This tendency, while being supported by Surrealism is not merely borrowed from Surrealism´s dream worlds, which are characterised by variations, transformations and combinations of heterogeneous figures from the most differing eras and places – with an aim such as the grotesque.
The internalized intrinsic-value of the picture language however, is dependent upon real feelings and uses real figures that are not merely sketched, without any real colour values, are not symbolised, but rather are loaded with feeling and life experiences. Their idea content lies near to the poetry world of classical China (e.g.: “Straight is the column of smoke upon the endless sand desert, and the sun shines round upon the horizon, where the long river Huanghe disappears…”) In the “realness” of the real appearance of things lies the richness of life and experience. We could also make a connection with the classical drawings of the masters such as the winter blooms “Orchids”, bamboos and chrysanthemums, or the mountain worlds, waterfalls, decorative plants and trees, all of which depict ideas or images about our inner state.
As against these possible connections, the internalized pictures of the contemporary arts express the existential feelings of contemporary people; they do not however contain any of the elegant, distinctive, formal moods of the traditional artist. Rather they tend towards depicting situations such as boredom, depression, the scurrilous, the absurd etc. and this in an undisguised, blunt, even repulsive and horrible manner. Today, where the “death of painting” is announced regularly and the media plays its role in this, the internalized picture language, adopted by contemporary painting and also part of artistic tradition, reveals new possibilities as well as generating stimulation, lessons, themes for discussion.
Chaotic disorder on the dining table, refuse, rats, dirt, rotting cakes – those are some of Zhang Xiao Tao´s images. But he still retains his earlier attitudes towards and treatment of the picture surfaces, in order to express his feeling of giddiness called forth by the dissolute, depraved and dilapidated scenery of the present. And there are still his precipitations. What however has changed is the feeling. The new precipitations no longer consist only of soft materials such as mucous, liquids and secretions, but rather of harder things such as roughage, ejections, refuse. They resemble the precipitations in the painter´s own life and work. Today´s materialistic, consumer society “secretes” dross and scum; out of psychological states physiological reactions are “secreted”: out of foodstuffs, refuse; out of appetite/desire, boredom… Precipitations uniquely caught, pictured and painted by Zhang Xiao Tao.