We met Caoyun, in the suburbs of Beijing. In her own studio, she presented us her various creations.
Born in Hunan province, she spent her childhood in the countryside. Helping her grandfather to make the “paper work” which was used on funeral was the pioneer folk sculpture she had made. She automatically felt in her world creating with her hands, which became her way of expression. Because her father was carpenter, she could use his tools secretly to make some wooden toys !
After college, she decided to integrate the Academy of Art and Design in Tsinghua University (Beijing) and specialized herself in sculpture. Her first sculptures of human bodies were made with plastic fiber glass.
Those representations were extremely realistic, sometimes humorous, sometimes more serious as her creation below to highlight environmental crisis.
After graduation, her style evolved, and she focalized on other materials as bronze or ceramics. Her rebel instinct became more peaceful. Daoism philosophy inspires the following series which rest on the balance principle. To be balanced, you have to push and attract the universe at the same time, as the hands of her characters are doing. You have to consider the emptiness and the fullness at the same time, which is reminded by the hole in her sculpture. A quietude feeling emerges from those characters.
Later, in her pottery series, she created some sensual sculptures based on mother and child bodies. Caoyun insists of the fact that it is always on the confusion that she found what she is looking for. Her feminine characters may represent a quest of herself. Like a story, she recounts her own evolution from childhood to woman state.
Puzzlement II (85*53*35)
In her very last works, she focused on the bronze materials, but covered her sculpture with different colors. Her human model are women of this century. They look self-confident, assuming their identity. Curiously, the tittle of this sculpture is “Lost”, as if the artist was looking for herself through her sculpture, looking for which woman she is going to become.
Lost II (95*65*35)
Finally, in her horse series, she creates static animals which seem helpless. A lot of artists create horses which are originate from running, leaping, or even whinny. But Caoyun’s horses are different and stand up straightly. Their curves are soft and, quoted from Chinese galleries : “it shows the beauty of eastern modesty”.
Gray Shadow (100*100*37)
Caoyun’s sculpture is always like a poem at the scene. It tells about a story based on the language of visibility and feeling. Her work of sculpture not only mirrors the accuracy of real sculpture language but also makes these animal sculptures be a lonely and comfortable condition throughout the detail of gesture, expression in its eye’s, and hue.
It is probably from Mao Yan’s lessons, that Gao Bo succeeds to catch such emotions in his portraits. Devoting himself to the demonstration and labor process of the techniques in his works, he needs meticulously to pay attention to every touch of painting.
The artist, Gao Bo, is born in Xuzhou and lives nowadays in Nanjing. He graduated at Nanjing University of the Arts in 1996. The famous painter Mao Yan was his teacher during several years.
However, he doesn’t want to be considered as a super realist painter. His paintings are always a dreamy trip through nightmare and reality.
In his Dream Loser series, the works of Gao Bo conveys the sense of darkness. His gloomy paintings imply pain and loneliness.
Red Hairs Friend (80*60)
In his phone call painting below, a woman is trying to make a phone call. Behind her, the chaos seems to grow. The number of cigarettes on the floor highlight the time she waits desperately to join someone. The concept is to let the spectator feel the individual helplessness more deeply and, in this context, people would need others and interpersonal communications more urgently.
Later, in One-Finger Zen series, his paintings are more serene. People, upside down, are supported by their own finger. However, this peaceful atmosphere is only a façade, which traps the feeling of the artist : one person exists with only one finger on the ground to support the body. This implies the delicateness and weakness between the person and the world. Everyone seems to be in the state of falling, as a solitary island, in the condition of suspension.
With the same idea, Gao Bo painted people in the middle of the sky. They are not flying or falling, just floating between the spaces, as if it was impossible to control their life.
Flying III (300*200*3)
Gao Bo has created an ambiguous, dreamlike, poetic and groundless world, where only abnormal details and classic images broken into pieces are intensively depicted.
Mr. Du (60*50)
He realized several solo exhibitions in Nanjing and Beijing.
Ge Yan is an oil painting artist from Hangzhou. He studied at the University of Arts of Hangzhou from 2010 to 2013. He is currently working and living in Shanghai.
The oil paintings of Ge Yan are full of intense colors. Traces of paintings lines with the brush are often visible on the background, reminding impressionism style. On some others, the deconstruction of the scene reminds the cubism movement.
His main subjects are the statues from the Antiquity. During this period, statues of gods or goddesses were admired and prayed, they had their role in the civilization. Nowadays, these old sculptures are most of the time exhibited in one museum. The spectator, who passes in front of them, looks at them as old pieces of History, which has no relation with his current life. These statues lost their religious aspect and became as expressive as still-life.
The willing of Ge Yan is to give back a role to these statues. Thus, he integrates them in daily life scenery. By this way, he gives them back a meaning and even a kind of second life.
This staging reminds sometimes the setting of one theatre, as if the statues were playing a role for the pleasure of the spectator.
In another series, Ge Yan paints a stacking of boxes. The organization of the boxes is confused and unstable. Each box could represent the privacy of one person, but putting them together, they became a public monument, where privacy is lost at the expense of collectivity.
Stacked Castle 6 (180*250)
A parallel could be undertaken between these works and the work of Yang Zhichao, who gathered diaries of Chinese people between 1949 and 1999. Each diary recounts the privacy life of one individual, but the group of them becomes one public art.
Yang Zhichao, Chinese Bible
However, the name of this series “Stacked Castle” indicates that, for Ge Yan, his boxes are not only a symbol of the privacy lost, but also a symbol of the construction in China, which sometimes is too fast and built without reflection process, which prevents it to last.
Ge Yan did his first solo exhibition in 2016 in Mao Space in Shanghai. He carried out several collective exhibitions before as in the C+ Galery in Beijing in 2016 or Five Five Gallery in Shanghai in 2017.
We met Huang Chenglin in one of the main art spaces of Shanghai, called M50. Chenglin has there his own gallery, in which he exhibits his works of art as well as those of other artists.
Born in Fujian Province, he grew up in the middle of the countryside and bathed in an artistic environment since his mother was a sculptor.
When he was 17 years old, he decided to start painting. He never even took any art course in university and he therefore found and developed his own style as a self-taught artist. He settled in Shanghai in 2000, where he has been developing his art and his talent up to now.
In his paintings, some faceless figures can be seen through their life. Coming from the imagination of Huang Chenglin, they sometimes perform typical scenes of the countryside life, working in the field or in the farm. These representations are old memories of his childhood, when he was observing the peaceful agitation of the country.
The soft curves of his figures touch the spectator and the absence of face questions him. Without any face, it becomes impossible to guess or capture the emotions of the characters. Is it joy, pain or frustration? The artist lets the observer fill these empty faces with the emotion he feels.
All his paintings are realized with oil painting and knife. The knife allows him to add roughness, which reminds also the roughness of the countryside life.
In some other paintings, the thematic of the individuality in front of the collectivity is addressed. In a country of more than one billion on inhabitants, how can you distinguish yourself when you are lost in the middle of the crowd ? How to express your need to be different ?
Painting is his way to extract himself from the crowd.
Huang Chenglin also develops his work through resin or porcelain sculptures. His baby characters are quirky and remind the ones of Yue Minjun.
Huang Chenglin already realized several exhibitions in China and abroad. He was invited to the Berlin Biennial in 2006.
Jiang Wei is living in one Art Village in Chengdu (Sichuan Province). We met him directly in his studio, while it was raining quite hard outside. While everything was gray outside, we penetrated in his room full of colors ; we were stunned by the energy and power released from his canvas.
Everywhere, on the walls, his paintings were yelling a thirst of expression, a desire to show the youth’s emotions, with their pain, anger and joy.
Jiang Wei is one of the youngest artists we met. His creation techniques are based on a combination of numerical tools and paintings. He first draws a scheme on his computer, with a limited range of colors. Then, he reproduces this scheme on canvas with propylene painting. The use of computer software limits the possibility to create shade or gradient in his colors. The colors are presented intrinsically and without any ambiguity. He comes back to the essence of the colors and lines.
New Hairstyles, 70cmx100cm, Propylene on Canvas, 2016
This minimalism concept of colors can remind Pop Art current. However, the selected subjects of Jiang Wei are darker than in traditional Pop Art paintings, although he uses bright colors.
A lot of sarcasm can be felt in his work. His characters, most of the time, inspired from pictures, are transformed with a lot of collages, and become a metaphor of the pain felt by young Chinese people.
Gold and Silver Age, 100cmx100cm, Propylene on Canvas, 2017
They feel trapped, lost, in full deprivation. Each image, that was totally neutral before Jiang Wei’s touch, becomes a symbol of uneasiness of the Chinese youthfulness.
Jiang Wei, with a limited number of lines, touchs the heart and minds in a very deep way.
Red Apple, 120cmx80cm, Propylene on Canvas, 2018
Kafka on the head of the crow, 75cmx75cm, Propylene on Canvas, 2018
Rain, 60cmx50cm, Propylene on Canvas, 2018
Fallen Land, 80cmx100cm, Propylene on Canvas, 2018
“The value of art is a feedback to the viewer. My philosophy is simple: express what others have not expressed; express ways that others have not used. This kind of exploration is the greatest pleasure for artists.”
Mirror mirror tells me, 60cmx50cm, Propylene on Canvas, 2018
We met the Taiwanese artist Kan Tan around a Hot Pot in Beijing. He surprised us several time in his studio, offering us sometimes goat cheese or Belgium chocolate, products we were unable to find in China for 9 months !
Kan Tan was born in 1963 in Taiwan. He studied western painting and sculpture. He became especially talented in sculpture field as one of the most proud disciples of the famous sculptor Zhu Ming.
Gandan grew up in Yingge Town, a major ceramic town in Taiwan. He and his brother spent all day playing in ceramic factories.
"I really want to return to my childhood days of joy and curiosity," he said. “My imagination and feelings are fully nourished. In my memory, there is no boredom in school. In fact, there are always miracles, unexpected landscapes and magical moments”
In his wood or stone carvings, Kan Tan’s willingness is to capture the magic nature. The power of the wind, the graceful of one current. Each piece of wood becomes one element of curiosity, in which he lets his inspiration expresses.
But his sculptures are not only grace and inspiration, we can see that many mathematical principles such as geometry, polyhedron are present in his carvings. Mathematical algorithm can make the sculpture structure balanced and exquisite.
Kan Tan can recognize all the flowers, trees, insects and animals in the mountains. He not only remembers their appearance, but also names them. Later, he engaged in sculpture. The trees in his memory became square wood. He would be curious to find the original appearance of the materials. "What kind of wood is this door made of, and what was it like when it was a tree?" He seems to have to know, otherwise he will always feel disrespectful of it. "
To respect also the history of the tree, Kan Tan reproduced in some sculpture the fall of one leaf, with different woods. His works were a subtle way to remind the previous life of each tree.
Fall from a tree 2 (78*18*19)
In some other works, he created two pieces of wood carving from the same piece of wood. As his previous works every sculpture is improvised, so every work is unique.
His idea is to create a vulnerability between the two parts. Then, during installation, the two elements can be separated or integrated.
In another thematic, Kan Tan created small sculptures inspired from Shan Hai Jing Legends. Shan Hai Jing is an ancient book describing ancient bizarre thoughts in China. It was written by Chu or Bashu people from the middle and late Warring States Period to the early and middle Han Dynasty. In those stories, abnormal animals or deformed gods are described. All these legends have a strong influence on Chinese culture. Kan Tan decided to integrate these cultural legends in his artworks to give them a second life. But the sculptures are not magnified as traditional sculptures, they became more graphic and comic, on the scope of our modern universe.
Symbiotic soil (17,5*21*12)
We met Liu Zhengyong, directly in his studio in Songzhuang, close to Beijing. Expressionist artist, specialized in oil painting, he magnifies bodies and faces.
When he was very young, he dropped into a fire pit, and he almost died in the accident. He was recovered after several years of treatment, but some scars were left. He was deeply struck by this accident, which drove him to become a little introverted.
He spent his childhood playing in the forest or near the river. He started to create many objects with nature elements and finally discovered oil painting.
He does not feel oil painting as a Western technique, but as a process and result able to transmit his understanding. As for himself, the aim of art is not to be aesthetic but to transmit an emotion that could be felt by everyone.
Great Fable (240x220), Oil Painting on Canvas, 2008
During a long time, Liu Zhengyong was tortured by the purpose and essence of painting. He traveled a lot in China, and all the artworks he saw did not convince him. When he came back to his studios, he destroyed and burnt all his previous works and finally felt released.
Then, he decided to create five paintings that should clarify what painting would be for himself. In case of failure, he would have definitively stopped painting.
Lucky for everyone, after these five creations, an intense expression was delivered, he succeeded to catch what he wanted to express, and he kept on painting !
Liu Zhengyong focuses on human bodies, most of which are sculptured busts. From frustrations to flaming emotion, each figure can be linked with a special background and a unique style. They are immune from reference to others. The body with the constantly simple and natural contour highlights the staunch background without any clear meanings.
The artist highlights the perception of the body with the thickness and strength of expressive colors, with the light and darkness, with emotion and energy.
Sensuous Body (200x170), Oil Painting on Canvas, 2017
He has painted many figures and portraits. All of them are people around him. Because they know and understand each other well, he can catch the emotions of his friend or himself and transmit it into his paintings. From frustrations to flaming emotion, each figure can be linked with a special background and a unique style.
Amnesia Series (180x160), Oil Painting on Canvas, 2017
The Sky (100x180), Oil Painting on Canvas, 2010
Self portrait of the Artist
Sensuous Body (160x120), Oil Painting on Canvas, 2015
Such strength of emotional loads leads to an unparalleled modernity and endows Liu Zhengyong an artistic language that carries meaning beyond time and place.
Inductive Body Series (260x220), Oil Painting on Canvas, 2017
Born in Tianjin in 1977, he graduated from the CAFA (the Central Academy of Fine Arts) in 2000. During his studies, he spent his time, looking for similarities and differences between Western and Eastern culture.
From his point of view, not losing its roots is a key point in life. Thus, his paintings are inspired a lot from traditional ink paintings. However, his objective is to blend the tradition with new movement in paintings.
On his first artistic works, he mixed the grafting Chinese traditional landscape painting with contemporary visual symbols of beauty. Those beauties are symbol from western world ; they evoke sensuality and sometimes erotism. This sensuality was unimaginable in the past Chinese traditional convention, Nanchao is part of the new generation and can express his desires directly.
Trip on the road n°54 (223*197)
His series, called “Trip on the road”, expresses the collision of young culture which oscillates between seek of modernism through capitalism culture and protection of traditions, still very rooted in China.
Later, he decided to express his conflict between traditions and desire of modernism in a different way. He found a way to pass ink painting from plane to three dimensions ; His main concept was : “Penetrating ink and rebuild space”.
Nanchao uses transparent resin, which he paints with ink and then immerged in a new resin. By this way, traditional ink paintings are transformed into sculpture frozen in a perpetual eternity.
The Cage of Zen n°6 (30*15*15)
Details of the Cage of Zen n°8 (200*40*40)
In a limited space, he uses the contemporary thinking to reform the semantic reference to life, death, activity and silence. By his artistic work, Nanchao lets the life open to transcendences.
The Babel (126,5*15*15)
Toward the Reborn n°10 (31,5*25*12,5)
Qin Tian is born in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. He realized his studies in the CAFA in Beijing, before settling back in Nanjing University of Arts as a teacher in Fine Arts department. He is an excellent sculptor.
His first series of sculpture presented here, were realized in 2013, inspired by “the Fall of the House of Usher” from Edgar Allan Poe.
“During the whole of a dull, dark soundless day in the autumn of that year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in heaven. I’ve been passing alone on the horse’s back through the singularly, dreary tract in the country. And at length found myself as the shades of evening drew on, within the view of melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was, but with first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I looked upon some blank scape for domain, upon the bleak walls, upon the white trunks of decayed trees, with the utter depression souls. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart.”
Qin Tian wanted to create a form, which could express the spirit described in Poe’s novel. The house of Usher is not only merely an old and crapped castle, but reflects the state of being. Looking at his sculptures, the spectator can fell the torture and pain of the body. Nevertheless, shapes of his sculptures are not reluctant. On the contrary, the elegant shapes are attracting for our eyes ; we want to follow the curves of each part. As an insect attracted by the killing light, we feel the evil in Qin Tian’s sculptures but we cannot resist and fall into it !
Usher 3 (106*26*27)
Usher 5 (48*22*27)
Later, Qin Tian decided to focus on a new thematic, based on the « negative space ». When everybody uses a mold as a basic tool to extract a sculpture from it, Qin tian decided on his side to focus on the mold itself, as the negative part of the sculptures. The interior space itself is invisible and intangible, just like the interior of a room, because it is "empty", it can accommodate a lot of things. The internal space itself is an imaginary object, that needs to be filled with the vision of the observer.
Negative Form 3 (100*60)
Positive Form 2 (100*100*60)
The production of Negative is a complete process, and any change in one process will affect the final result ; and a piece dictated by the hazard comes to life.
We met Zheng Jiang, directly in his studio in Songzhuang, close to Beijing. He is a visual artist who manipulates various media to bring the past to life or testify his thirst of living.
In his first works, he reproduced a motif that was frequently used for the glass windows of the houses in the 70’s. The blurriness from the glass windows produces a sense of mystery and provides room for imagination. Zheng Jiang breaks the usual rules of viewing, by making subjects of the paintings blurry in a near distance but clearer the further they are placed from the viewer.
Shot, Oil on Canvas, 2010
Behind the fake glass, Zheng Jiang painted elements from family life, sometimes souvenirs from his own family. In this way, a souvenir that was individual becomes collective thanks to the transparent glass. An unfailing link between individuality and collectivity is created.
After painting, the Artist wishes to focus more on the transparency of media. He created Sunset Clouds, an artwork where the viewer can interact with the works and participate to it. Adopting a position behind the transparent curtain, the viewer becomes also an element of collectivity.
Sunset Clouds (510x160), Tempera PVC Mantle, 2013
Looking more and more for the relationship between one material and its environment, he concentrates on the shadow created by the old glasses in the 70’s. Depending on the inclination, the intensity of the shadow can be diversified.
Shadow, in the fall of time and space, becomes another way of seeing. Such fall is a foresight of time as well as a review of memory, a spiritualism of pure form as well as the nature of things during the process of painting. Zheng connects his conceptual purity of abstract painting with the beatific image in visitors’innocent eyes.
Detail of Montionless Shadow (Group 2), Glass Pigment on Acrylic, 2016
In 2016, Zheng Jiang started a new project “Lichens”. In this new creation, Zheng placed sand of different colors underneath the ordinary one and hides large amount of silkworms inside the sand. During the exhibition, silkworms will constantly go through the sand and turn the glorious but dangerous colors outside the surface.
The inspiration of Lichens derives from Zheng’ s life experience and memory in Jiangnan, China: “We used to observe the tunnels dug by the mites between our fingers in class and pick out them at the tunnel portal with needle. With the agitation of physical growth and the violent itch of my skin, I lived through my adolescence.” said Zheng Jiang. The desire hidden from the daylight of moral principles combines with the physical feelings makes one denies all, but confesses all, finding out no word to say. As a greedy and excessive desire, it lies on the opposite side of rationality. It flirts, disturbs and wanders in the space of ambiguity, magnifying the evitable itch into a hysterical pain. The Potentiality of feeling becomes an abstract schema of intensity, connecting the possibility of reality to the vortex of virtuality.
Lichen, Sand, pigment and silkworm, 2016
Artworks of Zheng Jiang are sometimes more political and disruptive as “Coral”. Face to the mass destruction of traditional houses, inhabitants are lost. To express this feeling of people floating in the middle of nowhere, the artist attached coat sleeves to rocks. These rocks come from former Chinese town destroyed. Thus, it is the ancient construction or tradition that maintain people to the reality and prevent them to be lost. An important message, in a country where the concept of heritage is sometimes neglected to the profit of the growth.
Coral, Variable Dimension, Stone and sleeve, 2016
More recently, Zheng Jiang’s willing was to reconnect his life with the one from his parents. His father was digging in the mountains since the early '60s, which was the main source of income for his family at the time. In the late 1990s, due to the rise of the building style of reinforced concrete, the local rock digging industry entered the history. Now these ancient holes, which are abandoned in the mountains, are slowly weathering collapse by the wind and rain baptism.
Zheng came back in these caves and started to record a movie to reconnect with his soul and existence. In the first part of the movie, he works around a pillar of 20 meters. He covers the surface of the pillar with green luminous powder. When night came, stone pillars sent out of the green light, standing in the cave.
Extract of the movie FEITSUI 1rst part, 2017
Extract of the movie FEITSUI 1rst part, 2017
As for the second part selection, it is a red cave which is similar to the maternal body caves in the shape, using red luminous powder in the same way.
“I use these caves left behind by parents as a kind of special space carrier, putting the individual's life experience and feeling into these two space and let them talk at the same time between two space.”
After the movie “FeiCui”, Zheng continues to work on the thematic of the construction of the soul, experience and memories. He started a new series of paintings in which he intends to reproduce the traces left after the excavation of the stone wall and the abandoned cave space. This idea is connected with the construction method and architectural space of local buildings (houses, pavilions, coffins, tombs, etc.).
Black note 6 (70x58), Wood composite, 2018
Black note 13 (200x300), Wood composite, 2018
We met Zhou Hongbin in her studio in Xiamen, a charming coastal city. After a Bachelor of Art in Xiamen, she got her Master in CAFA (China Central Academy of Fine Arts), in Beijing.
This young photographer knows how to perfectly capture images of our world to transform it into a fantastic one.
Her first creations and maybe the one that describe the most her specific style is the Aquarium Series, that she created and modified from 2008 to 2014.
Aquarium 1, chromogenic print, 120 x 120, 2008
In that Series, a multitude of rabbits find themselves immersed in the heart of a mysterious aquatic world.
In this strange environment, rabbits symbolize for the artist meekness. Immersed in water, rabbits need to struggle to survive ; as the meekness of humans in suddenly in danger when an important stress occur.
Zhou Hongbin explains : "I travel in a digital-made world, an imaginary collage, where I appear adorable and lovely in a safe, quiet, soft and clean environment. I use public spaces such as swimming pool, fountain, parks and restaurants, and I choose to be represented by familiar pets like my own bunny to create a habitat, similar to a personal garden, utopian and self-centered, where different moments of my own life are fixed and combined in the same picture."
From 2014, her pictures become lighter. Light effects give more realism and more depth to the scene.
Aquarium 24, chromogenic print, 59 x 59, 2014
Aquarium 25, chromogenic print, 59 x 59, 2014
Through her photographs, she often illustrates the threats that surround the life of the human being and the energy that must be able to find in oneself to survive.
In 2014, Zhou Hongbin also embarked in several new projects, as Utopia Series. In these photographic series, she represents each animal of the Chinese Zodiac, accompanied with traditional symbols. One can observe a pine branch, a pile of earth and a snake hidden in the branch.
The pine occupies a place of choice in the Chinese tradition. Always green, whatever the season, it is considered by the Chinese as an emblem of longevity and wisdom. Planted around the tombs, the conifer wards the Wangxiang, an evil creature, devourer of the brain of the deceased lamented.
In her creation, Zhou Hongbin evokes this belief with the snake that seems very interested to the pile of earth, that could be a fresh tomb. With the title Utopia, she questions the traditions. Do we still want to believe in it or do we turn away from it, as the represented animal is doing ?
Utopia 6, chromogenic print, 59 x 59, 2014
She also focused on Still Life. Her concept was to strip the shapes to the maximum. All her Still Life projects are white, as if she wanted to prevent our mind from clinging to any color stereotype.
In Still Life II, threatening objects are trapped behind a white canvas…
Still Life II 1, chromogenic print, 59 x 59, 2016
More recently, she came back to her imaginary world, in which she delivers messages sometimes full of desillusion, sometimes full of hope, but always with an intense poesy.
At the end of the world, cold fairyland, chromogenic print, 78 x 200, 2018
All hard things will fall away II, chromogenic print, 78 x 200, 2018
Zhou Hongbin excels at creating fantasy universes. By a juxtaposition of collage, she multiplies the animals or herself, thus creating a decomposition of movement, a story ...