Born in 1963 in the Chinese province of Hebei, Fang Lijun is a world-renowned artist who has been exhibiting steadily in France, Japan, the Netherlands, and New York since 1995. He made his European debut in the international art world in 1993, with the Biennale di Venezia and in Berlin at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Two retrospectives in China and the presentation of his large-format woodcut at Berlins Kupferstichkabinett in 2006 demonstrated to what extent he has become one of the art worlds most influential figures.
The smooth-headed, monumental male figures - their mouths open in a cry - which he has been making since 1989, became a programmatic image of Chinese art during the breakout of the 1990s. One even appeared on the cover of the New York Times in conjunction with a story about Chinas contemporary art scene. The heads, which seem like manifestations of the artists alter ego, are silent or yawning, or sometimes crying out; they are as aggressive as they are diffident, as well as passive and bored. The ambivalence in the way they are expressed is considered the cynical realism of an artist who represented a generation known as Mao goes Pop (named after the title of one exhibition in Sydney in 1993). No other artist besides Fang Lijun has acknowledged the political oppression of the Chinese before and after 1989 with this artistic form of equanimity and distance.
In cooperation with the Museum of Fine Arts in Taipei, the Kunsthalle Bielefeld
is presenting a retrospective of the artists work, with about 50 paintings and sculptures, some of them very large. The show starts with Fangs earliest works of isolated men walking across inhospitable landscapes, or anonymous-looking groups of people whose themes are society and work. Later, the space is opened up, so that his figures float in water or the sky. Birds, babies, flowers, and insects appear as allegories in these works.
Over the course of fifteen years Fang has developed a kind of contemporary historical painting in which he portrays Chinese society as being marked by equal amounts of hardship and good cheer, or gloomy emptiness and vibrant ease.
To shed some light on Fang Lijuns work, a companion film, featuring an interview with the artist, will be shown.