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Symposium: “Social Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Painting”

In anticipation of the group exhibition opening of Fragmentary Narratives: Fang Lijun, Xie Xiaoze, Yang Jiechang and Yang Shaobin at the Stanford Art Gallery later this month, the Department of Art & Art History is pleased to present the symposium “Social Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Painting.”  The symposium is an international collaboration between Stanford’s Department of Art & Art History and institutions in China. Moderated by Dr. Britta Erickson (independent curator and critic), the panelists include the exhibition curator Ji Shaofeng (Associate Director of Hubei Museum of Art), Jeff Kelley (independent critic), Hung Liu (local artist), Enrique Chagoya (Professor, Stanford Department of Art & Art History), Richard Vinograd (Christensen Fund Professor In Asian Art, Stanford Department of Art & Art History), and the exhibition’s participating artists. This symposium creates the opportunity for an exchange of ideas between art communities in China and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The exhibition explores the fragmentary nature of social and historical narratives in the works of four prominent contemporary Chinese artists. Working from images found in newspapers, magazines, television and the internet, the artists deal with the superficiality of popular culture and how we perceive reality in a media-saturated world, while transforming the transitory imagery into seemingly more permanent art objects such as paintings. Fragmentary Narratives premiered in the fall of 2015 as the major parallel exhibition of The Fifth Art Changsha Biennial.
Fang Lijun: Spring 2008, a 4 by 8.8 m black and white painting, is filled with corpses taken from real historical images: the Paris Commune, Lenin in state, Hiroshima. Meanwhile, images of flies and mosquitos hide within the frame like various colored stains. Compared to his “bald period,” the subjects discussed in the new work clearly appear much more grand and abstract, reflecting on the “big questions” such as fate, death, ideals, transmigration, history and equality of all living creatures. While this is presented as the story of Fang Lijun pushing his work out from under his bald brand, it is better viewed as the artist’s update of old symbolic imagery.3
Xie Xiaoze: historical ‘facts’ are fragments of stories that are constantly deconstructed and reconstructed; Xie paints fragments of events in a manner that thwarts story telling. They show us yesterday’s news, whether horrific, ordinary or banal, that resist coherency in a manner akin to digging up pieces of rubble at an archeological site.
Yang Jiecang has long been at the forefront of China’s Cantonese art scene and has gained acclaim for both his ink-based abstractions and his experimental works, through which he challenges Chinese traditions with a fierce contemporary spirit. Today, Yang’s work continues to blend traditional Chinese modes of representation with the pared-down aesthetics of Western movements such as Minimalism, Conceptualism, and abstraction. In one work, Oh My God!, Yang conflates thick calligraphic text and repeats the title until the words have become more of a pattern than a source of linguistic meaning. While his work takes inspiration from the West, Yang also uses distinctly Chinese materials such as silk, porcelain, and Chinese ink, in addition to neon, gauze, paint, and found objects.
Yang Shaobin's paintings are known for their refined composition, rich narrative and incisive commentary on the changing social landscape of China. Yang’s lush paintings combine worldwide news images to comment on prevailing violence in the media, achieving dramatic intensity and power.



Friday, January 22, 2016. 02:00 PM


McMurtry Building, Oshman Hall, 355 Roth Way


Department of Art & Art History




Free and open to the public