Monday, September 13, 2010

The Generations of Contemporary Artists in China

Yuwen Shane Li

Today we went to Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum in Hong Fang Art Park. I was surprised to discover that there is a big art park in the center of Xuhui district, probably 20 minutes walk from my dormitory at SJTU. The presentation was host by Doryun Chong, and the first part was the introduction of an archiving project by Asia Art Archive (AAA): Materials of the Future: Documenting Contemporary Chinese Art from 1980-1990. This project documented the development of contemporary Chinese art from 80s to 90s, during which time young artists in China experienced confusion and re-identification. I was ignorant about the development of contemporary art in China; I only know a few pioneer artists in the early nineteenth century who introduced western modern art to China, such as Liu Haisu, Lin Fengmian, and those who accepted western art and left China like Pan Yuliang. I guess contemporary art didn't really start to develop in China until the Reform and Opening Up. Before that, the young generation of this country was brain-washed and didn't know what they were doing. The reason why preserving and tracking the development of contemporary art in China is so important lies in that it helps us to reflect on the 80's history and the generation.

The next part of the presentation was interview with three artists, one in his 70s and the two middle-aged artists. Honestly speaking, I think those artists and painters in China who are not born in families that are either moderately rich or with artistic tradition, are somewhat poorly educated. If they had chance to go to college, if they could have better options, most likely, they would not end up being artists in China cause it is really a risky business—artists always risk starving when pursuing their career. So it is interesting for me to hear from those three artists. They emerged during the 1980s or earlier and faced difficult times in their early years. Although they enjoy world-wide fame today, none of them speaks any English, a necessary skill for the educated cosmopolitans in the modern society. They are very creative indeed, but I felt some of their works lacks certain depth. Anyways, I think in China as a developing country, many people see artists aren’t realistic and lack of skills to survive in the society. Hopefully the younger generation of artists could change this perception.


cardinale said...

The host wasn't only Doryun Chong. Please check your details. Please identify the "midde-aged" artists, you need to be precise when re-tellng a story.
What makes you think the artists don't speak English? What makes you assume that?

Also, what do you mean they lack depth, explain a bit more what you mean with that?

Shane Li said...

I don't think Shi Yong, the middle-aged artist I referred to in the blog, spoke English, because obviously he needed translator whenever someone was speaking English to him.
Shi Yong’s works are too frivolous to me. They are for entertainment purpose, not aesthetic appreciation. That is what I mean by “lack depth”.