New Thinking artworks
After the reform and opening up of China that started in 1978 under leader Deng Xiaoping, Chinese art developed in new ways. Artists absorbed techniques from modern Western art while at the same time appreciating and being influenced by traditional Chinese art. They broke free from purely realistic styles and were encouraged to experiment in modernist art practices. The combination of the spiritual expression of traditional Chinese paintings and the expressive and abstract notion of Western art created a dynamic new form of Chinese art during this period.
All works are from the National Art Museum of China.
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Oil on Canvas, 150cm x 186cm.
He Duoling was born in 1948 in Chengdu, Sichuan province. He studied oil painting at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and in 1982 he completed a master's degree in the Oil Painting Department of the institute.
He draws his inspiration from the experiences of educated people moving from the city to be re-educated in rural areas. In this painting of a young woman dressed in military uniform, the artist conveys a mood both of sorrow and strength of spirit. The barren background is suggestive of the subject's state of mind. The contrast between the strength of the eagle and the isolated and lost youth, unsure of her destiny, symbolises the emotions and experiences of that generation.
Snow, XX 1968, 1979
Oil on Canvas, 196cm x 296cm.
Cheng Conglin was born in Wan County, Sichuan province, in 1959. He graduated from the Oil Painting Department of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 1982, and became a teacher there. He studied in the Oil Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts and in 1987, he travelled to Germany to pursue his studies and to paint. He is now working at the Art College of Sichuan University.
This work is representative of the 'Tragic Art' movement of the late 1970s, and was Cheng's first work to gain recognition, winning second prize in the Fifth National Art Design Exhibition.
In the style of critical realism, the painting depicts a fictional street fight, set in 1968 during the Cultural Revolution. The title of the work mimics the heading of a diary entry, creating a more realistic sense of the moment. It shows theatrical conflicts: the 'losers' are marched out of the 'fort' by the 'winners', one of the winners is carrying a camera to take photos of his victory, and the losers exhibit pride and an unyielding spirit. The elders, looking on from the side, appear confused and helpless.
The reforms of the late 1970s allowed Chinese artists to comment on past history for the first time since the Cultural Revolution.
Red Star Over China, 1987 (detail, two of six panels)
Oil on Canvas, 198cm x 183cm x 6.
Shen Jiawei was born in 1948 in Shanghai. While working at the Heilongjiang Production and Construction Corps and in the army, he painted for his own enjoyment. In 1981, he worked as a professional painter for the Liaoning Fine Arts Academy. From 1982 to 1984, he studied in the Oil Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. In 1989, he emigrated to Australia.
This epic six-panelled historical painting is based on literary works. After 10 years of preparation and historical research, Shen completed this painting in six months. Of the 124 figures depicted, 102 are identifiable figures from Chinese history. Shen adopted the earthy brown tones of the Western Loess Plateau for the painting as a reminder of the place where the revolution began.
The work vividly portrays a host of Chinese revolutionary leaders including Mao Zedong, Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai during their stay at Yan'an. It reflects their spirit of confidence and unity in those harsh times, while the dancing child in the red-star blouse symbolises the optimism of the moment. The painting takes its title from American journalist Edgar Snow's 1937 chronicle of the Chinese communist movement.
Oil on Canvas, 177cm x 196cm.
Zhan Jianjun, of the Man ethnic group, was born in 1931 in Gaixian county, Liaoning province. In 1948, he enrolled in the Western Painting Department of the National Art School in Beiping and graduated from the Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. In 1955, he trained in oil painting under the well-known Soviet artist Maksimov. From 1957, he became a teacher in the Central Academy of Fine Arts. He is a professor, supervisor of doctoral students and vice-chairman of the Chinese Artists Association.
During his early career, Zhan developed a reputation in Chinese painting circles for his historical paintings of the revolution. He is also well-known for paintings commissioned in the early years of the People's Republic of China. This work was painted in 1984, when China was undergoing reform and experiencing a new openness of government. The stance of the young farmer in the painting exudes strength and confidence. The wind-blown clothes, the erect shovel and the blowing wind combine to create an energy that characterises the optimism of this new period in China.
Liquid Steel and Sweat, 1981
Oil on Canvas, 260cm x 168cm.
Guang Tingbo, of the Man ethnic group, was born in 1938 in Dalian, Liaoning province. He graduated from the Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in 1964. In 1988, Guang studied in Claude Yvel's graduate class of classical painting in the Luxun Academy of Fine Arts. Since 1993 he has resided in the United States. He was formerly a professional painter for the Liaoning Museum of Fine Arts, director of the Creative Department of Liaoning Art Academy and is currently a member of the United States National Oil and Acrylic Painters' Society, vice-chairman of Liaoning Artists Association, and deputy dean of Liaoning Art Academy.
Guang spent three years working in a steel mill in order to create this photorealist masterpiece based on his experiences. This painting is a departure from previous paintings of this topic, which would typically show men drenched in sweat, working in front of a furnace. Guang depicts the men with their coats off, in the middle of a tea break. The section chief faces the viewer, his strong, sweat-drenched body reflecting the light of the furnace, indirectly referencing the theme of the painting: the strength and quality of the steel work. The intricate details contribute to the realism of the painting, as well as underscoring the strength of the main character.
New Line, 1983
Oil on Canvas, 83cm x 110.5cm.
Wei Qimei (1923–2009) was from Anqing, Anhui province. In his youth he learned traditional Chinese painting. In 1942, he was admitted to the Arts Department of the National Central University. After his graduation in 1947, he was employed by the Beiping Technological Academy of Fine Arts, and subsequently became a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts.