In the 1800s, the only form of painting recognized as serious art in China was ink painting. However, in the twentieth century, Western-style art, including oil painting, achieved a dominant position in China’s official art world. Experiencing a dramatic shift in politics and culture, Chinese artists explored themes that showed complex relationships of cultural and national identity, their relationship with the global art world, and the artists’ own ways of expression. Not only following Western tradition, Chinese artists found their own means of expression by sublimating oil painting, the classical medium par excellence.
Qi Zhilong’s painting, which appears on our exhibition invitation, is a good example of neo-classical trends in Chinese contemporary art. Qi Zhilong has been known as a social realism painter with a pop sensibility; here his charming Chinese girls in uniform smile with a bit of shyness.
Li Songsong’s thick oil paintings recall those of Western painters such as Luc Tuymans or Gerhard Richter, but his painting’s motifs are still quite Chinese. The parade of Chairman Mao, or of the Convention of the Communist Party in black and white, seem like imaginary scenes, but nonetheless represent an unforgettable reality of modern China.
Yuan Guolei’s painting is sensual. In the work “Always Sex,” three different parts-
gun, sexual organ and mouth-are metaphorically paralleled. Shen Ling’s vivid and lively oil paintings show China’s cultural shift. Her partner Wang Yuping’s paintings depict the everyday life of China, and show the changing culture of China. Then there is Liu Wei’s hip-hop style: graffiti-like shangshui painting opening completely new horizons for oil painting in China. The oil paintings of Zhou Xiaohu, known as a claymation artist, are also exhibited.