Sherman showed some works by Wang Qingsong during his talk and I went to look for more works by him. Born in 1966, he experienced the Cultural Revolution first hand and witnessed the influx of Western culture in China. These experiences form a large part of his work. Most of his works are politically motivated, are typically large format with lots of preparatory work involved.
This 2005 triptych by Wang Qingsong is an excellent example of his work. The first image depicts a united Chinese front, holding up banners that shout for cohesiveness in society, slogans from the illustrious communist past. This is contrasted with the back of the protesters, banners filled with joyful calls for the enjoyment of McDonald’s. The middle image probably depicts the destruction of the natural environment by this march of globalization. In a humorously sarcastic way, he brings to front issues that are close to contemporary Chinese society: its mindless rush to become a major superpower, embracing Western culture and the impact on Mother Nature.
I wish I could see this image in real life. The corporate logos are unmissable but I see some references to Sars and the Olympics. This image works in a less subtle manner, criticizing many aspects of China. Imagine facing this 3m by 1.2m work and trying to read everything written on the board!
“Sedan Chair” is a documentary and historic figure painting that recorded friendship and communication of the central power with its minorities over 1000 years ago.
We can see more examples of political motivations in his earlier works. In Can I Cooperate with You?, he recreated a traditional Chinese painting with modern day influence. The sedan reserved for the Chief is replaced by a trishaw carrying a white man. By reinterpreting a traditional painting, he might be highlighting the act of a culture being replaced by gloablization.
Although I find his works interesting, I think that he is being overly critical of the Western world. So much so that it becomes one-dimensional, without much room of intepretation for the viewer. I want to laugh at the images, yet at the same time, he is telling me something more about the state of change in China.
Given the rapid growth of China in recent years and the related social issues (and ills) being excellent fodder, Chinese artists are translating that into artwork that reflect the society they are in However, while we bemoan the lost of traditional values, we cannot neglect the good things that come along with globalization.