chinese contemporary art

New York Exhibitions>>

Cartoon II
October 16 - November 20 2008

Cartoon II is the second show dedicated to three young emerging female artists working along the aesthetics of animation. The cartoon trend among young Chinese artists was first recognized 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. Chinese Contemporary is pleased to present Wang Ke, Zhang Shuang and Zhou Nan. Each artist is using different media to convey contrasting meanings.

Wang Ke works with acrylic on very large format canvases. The enormous head on a minute body is a reflection of her self, in various moods. The 26 year-old artist explores individual identity and claims to paint anthropomorphic interpretations of her own facial features. A product of the One Child Policy, she grew up as the center of attention of two generations, enjoying the care and love but suffering the pressure of tremendous expectations and loneliness. This situation is all the more challenging as Chinese society has changed into something unseen by the older generations of her family. The simplistic features of the body and face emphasize the expressiveness of the eyes, which convey her psyche. Through her paintings, the artist demonstrates clearly and resolutely the extent to which an individual is a synchronized, myriad compilation of sentiments and that it is often the imperceptible components of life that reveal an individualís various facets.

Zhang Shuang uses an intricate combination of media, ranging from pencil, watercolor, charcoal, gouache and ink, on paper. The single female character at the center of each artwork looks like a fairytale heroine, a little girl and a glamorous actress, different facets combined to portray a woman. Her features, from the rosy cheeks to the long eyelashes and frizzy hairdo, and attire, whether it is a vintage style dress or a Darth Vader costume (complete with mini skirt and knee high boots), are extremely feminine. The composition lays emphasis on the lonely girl. The oversized face and protuberant round eyes, enhanced by exaggerated dark shadows, illustrates the intense emotion she is subject to. While each scene appears staged, to the point of such details such as a missing red glove, they capture the heroineís state as instant. Fantastic elements, either in the background - a tiny knight in green armor and a red dragon with black polka dots, a flying saucer or Superman - or as features of the main protagonist such as bat or angel wings, set her in surreal or movie-like sets. Her dramatic situation, either on ice with roller skates, walking through an erupting volcano landscape, or on top of a thin stone pillar amid tenebrous clouds, calls for rescue however she never seems to notice the miniature hero beside her. The artist depicts the little girl inside every woman, faced with disillusion while growing up.

In the Angel Spirit series, the emphasis is slightly different. The absence of a background and the bleeding wounds, maybe self-inflicted as suggested by the bloodied knife she holds, enhance her tragic state. The figures are even more disturbing, as the character seems in a state of shock. Whether its transparency reveals her breast and panty, whether she is missing a sandal or a glove, or whether her tights are falling down her leg, her outfit is a mess, seemingly resulting from a fight.

Zhang Shuang explores facets of the feminine and its infamous moods. She refers to the female in the new urban life with all its desires and temptations.

Zhou Nan mixes the foreign and the traditional in her work. Her technique, oil on canvas, while Western, is infused with washes reminiscent of Chinese ink painting. Traditional landscape painting elements such as snow-ridden bamboo leaves, lotus flowers, scholarís rocks are taken from Chinese landscape painting and surround exotic nymph-like female characters with disproportionate faces, exaggerated curves and hairdos. The format she chooses for the long and narrow panels is a direct reference to the scroll, which the calligraphy colophon on the side makes all the more obvious. The square canvases are an imported format.

Zhou Nanís feminine characters are mischievous and sensual, with daring or enticing expressions in their eyes and lips. Just like nymphs, or other mythological beings, they seem to belong to the landscape around them. In the series titled Spirit, their bond with nature appears even stronger, as they are adorned with flowers, leaves or water drops. The uncanny beauty Zhou Nanís brushstrokes gives them is very appropriate to their legendary nature. The washes give an extremely poetic quality to her work but also add a disturbing note when the color of the flesh seems to be dripping like blood. The world Zhou Nan depicts is mythical but not ideal.