Barricade of Bicycles, June 4, 1989, 1990
Chinese, Canadian, 1953
ink and acrylic on wove paper
251 x 600 cm overall; sheet: 251 x 150 cm each
National Gallery of Canada (no. 38263)
The Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989 in Beijing brought together hundreds of thousands of citizens objecting to what they saw as government corruption, censorship, and failed economic reform. Having witnessed the violent suppression of these protests by the Chinese military, Gu Xiong portrays a barricade of bicycles erected by protesters and subsequently crushed by encroaching tanks. Because of the vital role in China of this mode of transport in everyday life, each of the hundreds of bicycles depicted represents the life, livelihood, and sacrifice of one individual. Marked by an assurance of line and the near-decorative repetition of bicycle wheels, spokes, seats, and handlebars, the drawing is punctuated by the parallel tracks of a tank. Gu Xiong completed the work at the Banff Centre for the Arts, following his permanent move to Canada in 1989.