О насVOSTOK Magazine - это первое независимое медиа об обществе, культуре, истории и политике стран Ближнего и Дальнего Востока. Мы пишем обо всем, что кажется нам важным и интересным.
How the sprout of "cynical realism" managed to grow on the socialistic soil of China?
In this article we would like to talk about the unique flow of modern Chinese art – cynical realism: about how it managed to survive in the conditions of socialistic society of China, develop and take over the market of world's pop-art.
"The carrot and the stick" of cynism
Cynical realism is a trend in modern fine arts which emerged in 1980s in Beijing. It mainly deals with the socio-political subjects.
Western historians ascribe the appearance of cynical realism mostly to the period after 1989 when Chinese art (having only got over the cultural revolution) yet again got under the political influence.
In the beginning of 1990s Chinese state was developing drastically due to the democratic reforms. Economic liberalization was taking place meaning that the strict socialistic system which denied the personality would cease to exist. Moreover, economic liberalization was followed by political reaction, which gave the Chinese society and Chinese art relative freedom.
In the late 1980s the pictures by the cynical realists reflected the serious psychological trauma of new generation – "political antiutopia" displayed by art. However, these liberal art manifestations did not get the state's approval. The first exhibition of avant-garde art in 1989 was dispersed and legal activities of the artists were paused. But soon enough Chinese avant-gardists managed to say their name out loud in the West – a lot of them achieved success in 1990s among the Western collectors.
The difficulty of China's political situation at the time and socialistic values of Chinese state make us think about this: why government did not go on suppressing the new movement which was criticizing governmental policies?
The thing is, the cynical realism got the international fame and soon (despite the ideologically critical meaning of art) Chinese government decided to support the art-market to create stable currency and to raise the international prestige.
In its turn, this direction got through the state's "censorship", lost the antiutopian character and turned into the exclusive product of China which earns millions of money.
And so, sometime later cynical realism from rebellious art turned into original product and became a part of socialistic system which popularized Chinese culture in the international market of modern art.
Scream of soul, giving birth to a masterpiece
We can say that cynical realism became a sort of rebellion of modern artists against collective values that have been imposed by the government. This direction appeared as a response to the routine social realism that was aimed on glorifying the Chinese leaders and the system. The cynical realism later lost its antiutopian meaning and got its true form.
The main topics of the modern works are not exactly famous political events that shatter the Chinese society but the "cold, realistic" attitude towards current events which reflect the psychological conflict, the type of changes in China and "grey humor" (abstract humor with political subtext)
Symbolical methods of cynism
Formal elements unite the works of cynical realism with socialistic realism and ideological images linked to the political events of the late 1980s. For instance, blue sky and clear water (one of the main techniques of Chinese socialistic realism for displaying peace and calmness) become the background for weird figures with forced laugh and oversized heads.
The artist Yue Minqun tries to express the "self-irony in response to the spiritual vacuum and reckless behavior of modern China". Yue often creates his works basing on European masterpieces and famous Chinese works, uses acid colors to emphasize the insincerity of heroes, and stretched smile as a symbol of violence and vulnerability. Thus Yue Minqun is striving for destruction of the Chinese art tradition through its adaptation in pop-art.
Another Chinese artist, one of the main followers of cynical realism in the early 1990s, Fan Luqing, in his works displays the disappointment of young Chinese people who saw the events on Tiananmen Square in 1989 and other inside events of the time.
In his works Fan tries to show the poor position of a "person compared to masses", person's aspirations in front of the trouble etc. The artist combines the techniques of Chinese traditional arts, ancient Asian practice of woodcut, modern style and comic books.
You can't help smiling at his work "30 Mary". The idea and style suggest that the work is similar to ceiling frescos of Christian churches. This is an example of hyperrealism, and it shows the vortex of toy dolls and clouds which symbolises the eternity of promises. In this context Fan's art unites the ideas of sacredness of the past and the cynism of the modern world.
Modern cynical realism has already become the golden mine of Chinese art-market. In average, one picture of a Chinese artist (genre: cynical realism) can cost 1,5 million yuan. In December, 2006 Fan Liqung's work was sold for 2,420,000 yuan (US $300,000), his works were acknowledged to be the most expensive in the history of Chinese art..
The sales of cynical realism works have already exceeded the works of famous expressionists, thus ensuring the place in the world history of fine arts.
Picture source: http://www.saatchigallery.com/