chinese contemporary art

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The cartoon trend among young Chinese artists was first recognised in creative circles in Guangzhou in the mid to late 1990s. The so called 'Cartoon Generation' consists of young artists, mostly in their twenties, using cartoon-like imagery in their paintings. The figures are simplified usually with selected body parts totally out of proportion to the rest.  The three young female artists – Han Yajuan, Li Li and Wang Ke - exhibited in Cartoon typify this trend. 

The playful, cute characters of Han Yajuan’s canvases convey, according to the artist, the “wants and desires of every girl.”  They are often seen accompanied by small cows, which are a play upon the use of “cow” in Chinese slang to mean “girl,” as well as the material trappings of any urban “It” girl – the flashy car, designer sunglasses, beautiful clothing and overflowing shopping bags.  Han Yajuan’s heavily eye-shadowed, accessorisized girls have an endless appetite for things and their enthusiasm for consumption seem to spill over the canvas’ edges.  

Li Li's creatures have enormous round heads on minute bodies.  The graphic technique gives the artist great license for exaggeration and contradiction. Some of Li Li's works depict the most violent scenes but, presented in the cartoon style, the violence seems silly, even ridiculous. The adoption of the whole cartoon ethos also allows the artist to step into the world of the fantastic.

Similarly, Wang Ke’s figures are characterized by enormous heads that fill two-thirds of the canvas.  Alternately menacing and mischievous, each of Wang Ke’s characters captures a facet of the artist’s personality.  Wang Ke’s work stem from her introspective personality and, about her work, she says, “it seems like everyday I have to paint myself.  If I don't, I might forget who I am.”