Gao Qiang was born in the Chinese city of Dalian in 1957. In 1994, he started his career as an artist and settled in the artists’ village of Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace), a historic site in Beijing. His paintings show influences from both social realism and European painting styles and techniques. The impetus for his paintings can often be found in press photography. He literally imitates these, but always adds an extra connotation. He criticizes the ‘reality’ that is spread through newspapers, and wants to introduce the viewer to a different reality. As an artist, he investigates Western European tendencies as well as the secluded world of China. In a subtle underlying way, he actually questions how differently his culture would have evolved without ideological control (read: the strict communist regime). It is Mao’s person who functions as the main subject in his art, the artist rewrites, as it were, the collective memories that reign around this figure. An important part of his oeuvre is the series of ‘The Swimming Mao’. Based on the photos published of Mao’s 1966 swimming in the Yangtze River, when the Chinese leader wanted to prove his fitness to his people. Gao Qiang, who reproduces the photos exactly, not only shows his technical talent as a painter, but also expresses his criticism. The water shows a blood red colour, bearing in mind that this event takes place on the eve of the Cultural Revolution.