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A Chinese Landscape in Winter with a Family on a Track, a Walled Town beyond
Artist unknown (China Trade Painting)
■Year c.1810
■Medium oil on canvas
■Size (cm)
Paintings known in English as "China Trade Paintings" were made for export to the West during the late Qing export paintings. Travelers from the West who visited China during the late Qing dynasty sought painted mementos of the strange scenes and customs they experienced in this foreign and exotic land. As the demand for such images grew, Chinese painters set up workshops in Guangzhou and Hong Kong to produce paintings aimed at the foreign tastes for exoticism and shaped with western spatial expressive forms. This painting of a winter scene--can not be seen in subtropical Guangzhou or Hong Kong--was clearly created from the painter's imagination. The overall image derives European perspectival methods, and yet the rocks, trees and other elements are clearly painted in traditional Chinese painting depictive methods. This juxtaposition of traditions gives the image an eerie, strangely disjointed space, one fresh and richly fascinating.
Project for Extraterrestrials No.4: I'm an Extraterrestrial - Project for Meeting with Tenjin (Heavenly Gods)
Cai Guoqiang
■Year 1990
■Medium gunpowder, Japanese paper and ink on canvas
■Size (cm)
Cai Guoqiang, who had been staying in Japan since 1987, gained attention with open-air works using gunpowder explosion which he successively presented in several cities of Japan, and is now one of the Asian artists most highly appraised in the Western art world. This work is a plan-drawing for his work intended for the first 'Museum City Tenjin' in 1990, a contemporary art exhibition using the urban space of Fukuoka. It illustrates his project to reproduce the so-called 'mystery circles', which were regarded as traces of the landing of UFOs found in various parts of Japan at that time, in a roof-top heliport of a city building, by means of exploding gunpowder. Although this plan was not realized, this is a valuable example of the early works of this artist, who is characterized by his grand thoughts in terms of interest in the history of civilization on a global scale and by the spectacles that he produces with gunpowder, which is an invention of the Chinese. The title 'Tenjin' refers to the name of the central district of Fukuoka City, and literally means 'god of heaven'.
Lu Shengzhong
■Year 1991
■Medium paper cut-out
■Size (cm)
It would be unthinkable to celebrate the new year or any other festive holiday in China without decorations made of paper cut-out animals, flowers and other motifs. These forms survive today amongst Chinese people as a deeply rooted folk art form. Lu made his debut as an artist in the creation of these paper cut-out works and Chinese New Year Pictures. These remain his primary expressive media, while he also creates works in the contemporary idiom of installation art, thus moving beyond the framework of folk art. "O" stands in contrast to "Negative Figure of O." In "O" the positive, un-cut areas of red form the images, while in "Negative Figure of O" the cut-away forms create the image. Both works were created by layering their cut red papers against a background of black paper. The human form is based on the folk belief use of dolls to call back the spirit of a person on the verge of dying. The small figures seen here are an important motif for this artist as he attempts to heal the diseases of contemporary society through his own forms of artistic expression.
Series No.3
Fang Lijun
■Year 1992
■Medium oil on canvas
■Size (cm)
During the early 1990s, in the aftermath of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square Incident, young artists in China were seized by a vague sense of despair about their lack of freedom of expression, the contradictions of the social structure, and by their unease about their futures as artists. A newly fledged painter during this period, Fang became an artist who expresses a keen awareness of his own position and society's mood. Around 1990 Fang began using his own "skinhead" image as the model for a series of oil paintings. Here men are shown with an uncannily warped face and a fearless grin. He repeats multiple images of this same man within one canvas. These numerous warped faces can be interpreted as an expression of the weird qualities of a society which seeks to strip people of their individuality. 'Cynical Realism' is the name coined for this askew manner of expressing the world around us, and it has been the main stream in Chinese contemporary art since 1989. Fang is one of the leaders of this movement.
Funeral in Winter
Wang Hongjian
■Year 1994
■Medium oil on canvas
■Size (cm)
Wang describes human existence as born from nature to return to nature. This painting of a funeral in the expansive Huangtu plateau region reflects his thoughts on these fundamental matters as his figures are bound in a deep nostalgia for nature. The massive sense of scale in this painting comes from its elevated horizon line and reflects the artist's actual experiences in the Huang plateau region. On the other hand, the uniform arrangement of people facing forward, looking out at the viewer, reveals the strong influence of commemorative photographs and magazine illustrations on Wang's work. The compelling, disciplined techniques of realism are completely appropriate for this scene reconstructed from photographs. Paintings created in this realistic, academic style have been the most popular art form in China's art community and among the general populace for many years, and still are today. Wang is one of the leading painters in this style.
I Love Tienanmen Square, Beijing #29
Luo Brothers
■Year 1996-97
■Medium photograph, computer graphic, water color, lacquer on board
■Size (cm)
Chinese traditional new-year pictures are used to decorate walls and doors of rooms during the New Year season, and these images of good-luck subjects pasted to the walls are prayers for peace and prosperity in the household in the new year. The images depicted are popular, bright and gaudy, reflecting aesthetic tastes common to the Chinese people. With the onset of the Cultural Revolution, these prints turned into a forum for political propaganda and they tenaciously survived in this unexpected form. The Luo brothers succeeded their father's lacquerware technique. While they create lacquer paintings in the traditional, divided labor process, their realm of expression is extremely modern in taste. Here they have borrowed the traditional format and auspicious symbols of new year pictures and added a collage of items from the onslaught of consumerism products flooding into China--from Coca Cola to McDonalds, Sony products and cell phones--to create a strangely festive and strictly contemporary "new-year picture." The title for this image is taken from one of the slogans they saw in their hometown in their childhood.
Handscroll Vol.1
Xu Bing
■Year 1988
■Medium woodcut on paper (handscroll)
■Size (cm)
At first the characters printed on this handscroll appear to be standard Chinese characters, but in fact they are characters created by the artist from a recombination of the separate elements found in standard characters. Referring to the Kang Xi (Chinese character) Dictionary, Xu developed his own rules of reconstruction, planned the form of each character, carved it into a woodblock, and then printed it in traditional text format. Over four long years, Xu created more than 4,000 characters, each completely meaningless and unusable. The sheer dizzying amount of time and effort spent might be considered a wasted effort in normal terms. However, Xu wanted to express wasted effort and the nonsensical. If he expresses as art that which normal society considers nonsense, haven't he in fact revealed the exasperating nature of reality, a world filled with absurdity and deception?
Poster for Anker Beer
Hang Zhiying / Zhiying studio
■Year 1930s
■Medium offset on paper
■Size (cm)
Posters fostered the people's longings for fashionable imported goods while Shanghai boomed as a new and prosperous international city during the 1920s and 1930s. China had a long tradition of "New Year Picture (Nienhua)", a form of woodblock print with felicitous images used as interior decoration during the new year season. These simple prints then developed into prints with attached calendars and their mass-produced forms flooded Chinese towns. Advertising posters used this combined calendar new year's print format, adding hints of the fantastical images of "modern lifestyles" to awaken the longings and desires of the masses. The models for these posters were popular stars of the silver screen, and the Chinese style of dress seen here was the latest fashion around 1925. This poster is thought to have been made by the most popular printing studio of the day, the Zhiying Studio. This workshop employed dozens of artisans who mass-produced 80 or more calendar new year's prints per year. This world of mass production and mass consumption and its related advertising then led to birth of new heroines symbolizing the new age.
Undefined Pleasure
Zhang Peili
■Year 1996
■Medium videotape(4 sets), 29-inch monitor(12 sets)
■Size (cm)
Twelve 29-inch television monitors display this video-format work. Four different scenes are shown on three monitors apiece, each repeating images of the act of scratching, whether scratching a shoulder, arm, hips, or foot. This abnormal human act, never letting up even when the skin turns red and angry, is both a form of self-imposed "soft torture," and at some point, this torture turns into a form of "pleasure." Zhang began to create video art at the beginning of the 1990s. His works speak of the psychological pressure he has felt in Chinese society from the Great Cultural Revolution to the present, the claustrophobic sense of society's global homogenization , and the sheer human nature which becomes hardened to the habitual. The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum houses two of his major works, "Undefined Pleasure" and also "Document on Hygiene: No. 3" with its image of a chicken being washed over and over again in a washbasin.
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