Art Radar: China

In the wake of Art Basel at Miami, I thought it might be nice to turn the limelight onto Chinese artists that should really be on your radar. I’ve shared my thoughts in the past that China is the up and coming art Mecca of the world… And there’s so much more to it than subversive art darling Ai Weiwei.

  • Zhang Huan
From left to right: 12 Square Meters, Family Tree, Free Tiger Returns to Mountain

Huan is primarily a performance artist but is gifted in both sculpture and painting as well. Like many contemporary artists in China, Huan challenges certain social mores of Chinese culture and subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) criticizes certain polices of the Chinese government that has lead to his censorship. A unique detail about Huan is his absolute obsession with Chinese toilets — In his work 12 Square Meters he covered himself in honey and fish oil on a toiler and let flies feed on him for an hour. This performance art, Zhang states, was symbolic of his own childhood in his rural village, where people swarmed everywhere in filth and there was never any room.

  • Cui Xiuwen
Spirit Realm (top), Angels No. 3 (left), Lady’s Room (right).

Xiuwen is an artist who works primarily with oil, video, and photo work and famously had her video work, Lady’s Room, due to the brazen exposure of modern prostitution in China. Much of her work reflects on being a woman in China, and how cultural demands don’t always meet the reality.

  • Zeng Fanzhi
The Mask series (left and bottom), and the Last Supper (top right)

Fanzhi’s work is immediately recognizable by the exaggerated features of its awkwardly poised subjects, the expressive faces, and bold colors. Together it creates a disorienting and uneasy effect on the viewer, which is Fanzhi’s intention. Like many Chinese artists, Fanzhi’s work is meant to lament the feelings of isolation which can be seen throughout his Masked series. Recently, his work has totaled $226 million at auction, with his Last Supper going for $3o million alone.

  • Wang Haiyang
Haiyang paints as well, though they aren’t his primary medium. These paintings do not have names and are described by their measurements and the paint used.

Wang Haiyang is a younger contemporary artists who breaks rank by working primarily with “animated paintings”, where he employs his stream of consciousness into creating videos made from thousands of drawings that he drew and then erased. His surrealist work stands in strong contrast to the typically political or culturally crtical paintings of his contemporaries and he’s considered one of the rising stars in the art Chinese art world.

  • Huang Jingyuan
Transmigration Inadequacy (top left), I Am Your Agency No.34 (top right), I Am Your Agency No. 34 (bottom)

Jingyuan studied in Canada and US and this is reflected in many of her works, whose themes orbit around immigration, dislocation, and the disconnect between China and the rest of the world. Not restricted to paintings alone, Jingyuan has created installations which provide a dark and sometimes oppressive labyrinth for visitors, to provide a visual and visceral taste of her own journey.