Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meat and Satire - Response to Gu Dexin and Zhou Tiehai

The artwork of Gu Dexin in my opinion is best described as grotesquely fascinating. Having grown up in the rigid Communist period under Mao, Gu Dexin perhaps uses his art as a response to the regulation and fallacies of society, though no one can be sure for he says nothing about his pieces. Yet, this silence frees the viewer’s minds to interpret at will. Though the message may be blurry, the communication is clear.

Plastics were amongst the first materials used in his artwork, other than paper and ink. But he soon branched out into meat and fruits, using not only through visual expression but also expression using smells. Whether it is rotting fruit juxtaposed with perfume or arranging meat into structures with clear sexual references, Gu Dexin challenges the mainstream art market and the idea of restrictions. After understanding his childlike nature and aversion towards regulations, viewers begin to see Gu Dexin’s ideas of breaking free from ordinary social standards. By letting the observers develop their own thoughts without his commentary, he achieves generating pure shock and awe.

Zhou Tiehai also thrives on breaking free from the typical art market. However, unlike Gu Dexin, he does so by altering and manipulating classical images from paintings and magazines. Perhaps his most famous works are composed of a standard portrait in which the heads of the people are replaced with camel heads.

Born in 1966, Zhou Tiehai currently lives and works in Shanghai. His works embraces the use of technology and are generated via the computer. In my opinion, these digitally created images communicate a satirical view of the world through less shocking and more socially accepted modes. But, the messages against following trends are clearly expressed nonetheless.

In comparison, both artists comment on society, particularly the current contemporary art markets, through their works. However, their mediums are drastically different. Interestingly, Gu Dexin mostly taught himself to develop an artistic style while Zhou Tiehai attended the Fine Arts College at Shanghai University. Their background influenced their methods, one being shocking and the other, sarcastically classical. Though the means were different, the two artists communicate the same message.

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