Selected works by Fang Lijun

Fang Lijun
2003.3.1

2003

woodblock prints and ink on 7 paper and fabric scrolls with wooden dowels

400 x 852 cm
Fang Lijun
Untitled (Swimmers)

2004

inkwash on paper mounted on canvas

132 x 213 cm
One of the leading proponents of the early 1990s Cynical Realist movement, Fang Lijun’s work encapsulates the disillusionment of China’s youth; a generation defined by the events at Tiananmen Square and China’s internal domestic policies. Constructed around loose narratives Fang’s images personalise sentiments of disenchantment, angst, and rebellion; his fictional suggestions conveyed through his illustrative style and re-occurring bald-headed protagonist.
Fang’s practice exhibits a rarefied technical skill rigorously studied through his Social Realist training; his combination of this aesthetic with references to contemporary comics, folk art, and dynastic painting characterise a national identity in flux, distilling a position of integrity from tradition and the modern world.
Fang’s monumental sized prints revive the ancient Asian practice of woodblock printing -- a complicated and exacting process of carving a ‘negative’ image into a panel, coating the surface in ink, and impressing the image onto paper; each different colour and tone requires a separate plate and order of printing. Due to their immense scale, Fang’s images are composed on several adjoined scrolls; the elongated strips create both an emotive fragmenting of the image, and create a reference to memory and historical testimony. Thematically, each of these prints describe the plight of the individual against the ‘mass’, creating a spiritual contemplation of solitude the quest for personal probity in the face of adversity.
Fang’s painting 30th Mary evokes these same sentiments with a humorous effect. Reminiscent of European church ceiling paintings, Fang portrays an order of ascendancy of same-same kewpie figures, each based on his own image. Executed with painstaking hyper-realism, the clouds formulate as a tempestuous funnel rather than a portal of billowing promise. Contrasted with the kitsch palette and pop rendering of the grotesque cherubs, Fang’s painting approaches the sanctity of ideological assurance with an empathetic cynicism.
Fang Lijun
1998.11.15

1999

woodblock prints and ink on 5 paper and fabric scrolls with wooden dowels

490.9 x 606.2 cm
Fang Lijun
1996.No.17

1996

woodblock prints and ink on 3 paper and fabric scrolls with wooden dowels

244 x 366 cm
Fang Lijun
30th Mary

2006

Oil on canvas

400 x 525 cm
One of the leading proponents of the early 1990s Cynical Realist movement, Fang Lijun’s work encapsulates the disillusionment of China’s youth; a generation defined by the events at Tiananmen Square and China’s internal domestic policies. Constructed around loose narratives Fang’s images personalise sentiments of disenchantment, angst, and rebellion; his fictional suggestions conveyed through his illustrative style and re-occurring bald-headed protagonist.

Fang’s practice exhibits a rarefied technical skill rigorously studied through his Social Realist training; his combination of this aesthetic with references to contemporary comics, folk art, and dynastic painting characterise a national identity in flux, distilling a position of integrity from tradition and the modern world.

Fang’s monumental sized prints revive the ancient Asian practice of woodblock printing -- a complicated and exacting process of carving a ‘negative’ image into a panel, coating the surface in ink, and impressing the image onto paper; each different colour and tone requires a separate plate and order of printing. Due to their immense scale, Fang’s images are composed on several adjoined scrolls; the elongated strips create both an emotive fragmenting of the image, and create a reference to memory and historical testimony. Thematically, each of these prints describe the plight of the individual against the ‘mass’, creating a spiritual contemplation of solitude the quest for personal probity in the face of adversity.

Fang’s painting 30th Mary evokes these same sentiments with a humorous effect. Reminiscent of European church ceiling paintings, Fang portrays an order of ascendancy of same-same kewpie figures, each based on his own image. Executed with painstaking hyper-realism, the clouds formulate as a tempestuous funnel rather than a portal of billowing promise. Contrasted with the kitsch palette and pop rendering of the grotesque cherubs, Fang’s painting approaches the sanctity of ideological assurance with an empathetic cynicism.

Articles

Fang Lijun


Fang Lijun is the leading protagonist of Cynical Realism, the major movement of the post-1989 era in contemporary Chinese art. Cynical Realism, an urban based movement, developed in the aftermath of the events of 1989 which included not only the demonstrations at Tiananmen Square but the closure earlier that year of the "China Avant Garde" exhibition at the China National Gallery in Beijing by the authorities.

The 1980s were characterised by great idealism and hope in the avant garde artistic community, that the artists would be able to contribute to the regeneration of Chinese culture. The exhibition of their works at the China National Gallery was the culmination of that decade and signalled to the artists that they had been recognised. The dramatic closure of the exhibition soon after it's opening marked the destruction of those goals. The 1990s were characterised by a loss of idealism, a more ironical, a more personal viewpoint and a greater detachment from any regeneration of culture and society - a cold, realistic view of changing Chinese society.

One of the most famous images of contemporary Chinese art is the Fang Lijun painting owned by the Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Series 2 - Number 2, 1992. The main figure, a friend of the artist, could be yawning or yelling while the mute, menacing figures in the background bring to mind mindless, manipulated masses. The contrast between the strong individuality of the main figure and the dazed conformity of the four background figures is overwhelming.

The bald headed youth which first appeared in the artist's paintings in the early 1990s has become Fang Lijun's characteristic figure and has been widely interpreted as the symbol of disillusion, mockery and rebellion in present Chinese society. Later series include the water series, dreamlike works of swimmers, and gigantic, multi-panel, woodblock prints.

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Source: chinesecontemporary.com