Sunday, November 4, 2007

Picture This

I took some visitors to Factory 798 to see what China's contemporary artists are doing.

And similar to my first visit, there's lots of see, but not much of it very good.

Lots of it references Chairman Mao, contrasting his images with the capitalistic society of today. Others experiment with sexuality, one including a realistic statue of a naked woman complete with hair on her head and on other parts of her body, sitting in a chair with legs open. Another did large-size monochromatic portraits with the word "AK-47" in various shades to create the image. The painting technique was excellent, but the name of the weapon was disturbing.

In an interesting twist, an English woman exhibited wood block prints with a strong Chinese flavour. For example, there were dragons with man-made satellites instead of clouds around them.

The gallery assistant explained that this artist hadn't been in Beijing long, but wanted to do prints using Asian style wood cuts, but printed on heavy paper from Italy.

She went on to say with a tinge of criticism that the Chinese art scene is developing too quickly. There is no main message or meaning behind the artists' work. It seems like they are just trying to create something in order to be noticed -- to become the next Yue Minjun.

Yue is famous for his pink laughing faces and most recently his controversial painting "Execution".

It features men in their underwear being shot at by men who pretend to hold rifles in their hands. It's a direct reference to 1989 and inspired by Francisco Goya's "The Third of May 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid".

And a few weeks ago this painting fetched over US$5.9 million in an auction, the most expensive contemporary Chinese work sold under the hammer.

While it made a lot of money, at least this painting makes a strong statement that no one can deny.

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