Mao Tongqiang

"Tools" (hammers/sickles/axes) archival pigment print 118 x 147 cms, 2008


The recent print "Tools" (Gong Ju) by Mao Tongqiang consists of over 30,000 pieces used sickles and axes (and hammers) that the artist has collected across China in over two years. In terms of the context of the work, the most fundamental nature of these sickles and axes is working tools, the symbol of the farming civilization that had been dominant over thousands of years. If we look at these tools from a historical or sociological perspective, they were also the most primitive weapons in countless peasant revolts that marked the changes of dynasties in feudal China. In the modern history of Comintern (Communist International in Soviet Union) and the Communist Party of China, sickle represented peasants and ax (and hammers) workers. It’s the union of the two groups that led China into victory in the Communist Revolution in the 1940s, who also constituted the fundamental force of Socialist Construction afterwards. So it’s not surprising that the flag of the Communist Party adopted a pattern of sickle and ax, which illustrates the symbol’s significance and value.

The large format and subtle blend of patina and color make this image especially compelling.