Journey to the Southwest: The Exhibition of Chinese Southwestern Contemporary Art from The Long Museum Collection
In the context of contemporary art, “Southwestern” means more than a geographical term. Over the last forty years, the active development of Southwestern art has earned itself a significant place in Chinese contemporary art, and played a significant part in bringing Chinese contemporary art onto the international stage. From “Scars Art”, “Native Realism”, through “China New Figurative Painting”, “Life Stream of Southwest”, “New Scar Art”, “Cruel Youth” to “Cartoon Generation”, a series of vibrant artistic movements along the extraordinary journey of Southwestern art brought about a great number of outstanding contemporary artists and their representative works which were later proved to have transformed the historically little known Southwestern regions into one of the most important contemporary art centers in modern China.
This special exhibition includes 75 works of 49 artists who are intricately associated with the Southwestern lands: some of them were born natives, some studied there, some travelled or lived in the Southwest for some time. Following a historical sequence, we will use three major parts to illustrate this amazing Southwestern art story: “Scars-Natives-Life Stream: taking form in transformation”, “Diversity: taking off during opening up”, and “Marketisation: progressing in development”.
On behalf of Long Museum, I hope this exhibition will serve as a clear window for the audience into the historical journey of Southwestern contemporary art. Artists involved in the exhibition are literally connected to “Southwestern” in various ways. Inspired by this unique land, many of them have created art that makes them internationally reputed Chinese artists. Southwestern China, fertile land for Chinese contemporary art, is gaining acknowledgement at home and abroad through brilliant artistic creation from generation to generation of artists.
Scars-Natives-Life Stream: taking form in transformation
Reflection on history is the dominant theme in the late 1970s. This strong ideological trend first started in the realm of Chinese literature, then expanded to the artistic area in which the artworks of students (enrolled in 1977 0r 1978) from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (SFAI) stood out. Luo Zhongli created a gigantic portrait Father (1980) with breathtaking Hyperrealism.The highly realistic depiction of the image of working people in the painting contrasted the stereotypes of portraiture in 1960s to 1970s, triumphantly ushering Chinese contemporary art into the phase of “Scars Art”. Artists like Gao Xiaohua, Cheng Conglin, He Duolin were also exploring the fate and situation of ordinary people during the turbulent times. Meanwhile, as Luo Zhongli’s Father and Chen Danqing’s Series of Tibet Pictures (1979-80) mesmerised Chinese artistic community, many artists were intrigued by the subjects concerning Southwestern rural regions and ethnic groups. Subsequently, a great number of artists travelled to the depth of the unfrequented regions of Southwestern China in hope of getting inspiration from the mysterious ethnic people.
In the 1980s, China witnessed a tremendous popularity of western philosophy, literature and art, which stirred another current dominated by western ideology. Influenced by western modern art and mechanism, artworks of Zhou Chunya, Zhang Xiaogang, Ye Yongqing, Mao Xuhui have an explicit inclination of Expressionism. Dependent their artistic inspiration upon individual life experiences and impression about Ethnic groups, the community of Southwestern artists initiated an artistic movement named “Life Stream”, which formed a robust artistic branch of 85 New Wave.Those avant-garde artworks struck a strong blow to the artistic stereotypes established in 1960s to 1970s, leading Chinese contemporary art to a new era.
Diversity: taking off during opening up
As the policy “Reform and opening-up” took effect, prosperous economy made “market” a significant element in guiding the development of Chinese contemporary art. At the same time, China’s openness to the outside world also helped its contemporary art go beyond the narrow artistic community at home towards the broad international platform. Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline:Big Family Series (1998) was exhibited at the 22nd Sao Paulo Art Biennial.The great reputation this painting earned overseas made this series an extremely popular item in the auction room for collectors across the globe. Besides, under the influence of German Expressionism, Zhou Chunya created outstanding series such as Green Dogs, Peach Blossom.
The on-going “opening-up”of Chinese society even encouraged academic artists to break the old traditions and create new art. Inspired by new artistic criticism, teachers and students of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (SFAI) never ceased to impress Chinese artistic community with their avant-garde works. Art teachers from Sichuan and Chongqing, like Pan Maokun, Zhang Xiaotao, Xie Nanxing, also carved out an innovative path towards their artistic ideals with their life experiences and reflection on this world.
Marketisation: progressing in development
21st century is a critical period for Chinese contemporary art where the rapidly developing economy incredibly promoted the nascent art market, which peaked in 2008. Against the grand background of market economy, the management of art museums, galleries gradually took a mature and professional course, and the concept of investing in art as a new option of financial investment was increasingly accepted by the public.
Inspired by their life experiences, artists born in the 1970s and 1980s left their unique mark in the history of Chinese contemporary art. Likewise, the younger generation of Southwestern artists also take advantage of their own life and visual experiences, which are mainly related to Manga and computer technology, to create the so-called “Cartoon Generation art” that distinguishes themselves from other precedent styles. Using simple and clear graphic patterns to build an artistic intervention into the reality, artists of “Cartoon Generation” establish a simple and direct thinking mode in artistic creation, which is totally different from that of elite art. Echoing the experience of general public, their art is gaining more and more admiration among the audience.
Ticket Price: Free
Address: Long Museum (Chongqing), 1F Guo Hua Financial Centre, No.29, Jinsha Road, No.9 Juxianyan Plaza, Jiangbei District,Chongqing