Monday, November 5, 2007

The Anti-Vice Campaign

I discovered these exquisite pieces by Zhang Haiying on the Saatchi website.
My first impression, which I shared on the previous post, was one of formal sublimity. Without the context of these other pieces I didn't at first see the "meta text" behind the work and assumed they were "merely" formal studies in virtuosity. (I say merely with a grain of salt).

However, as one discovers each piece in the series, a greater dialogue begins to unfold. There is a current of Nietzsche's moral relativism flowing through this painter from China. He speaks of a puritan desire for morality in a religious vacuum. He reveals the tensions of globalization, the colonialist insertion of western culture in a land where history and antiquity was once erased by western ideology. He describes the yearning for cultural context, the adoption of western virtues and vice and the simultaneous forces that oppress it.

As a discussion of the Chinese sex trade and the inadvertent arrests of innocent women as well, these works blur the line between virtue and vice and even alternate them at times. They compare and contrast the glamorous and self-destructive night life with the puritan power of the communist government. They refrain from specific judgement but don't shy from vigorous inquiry.

"What is the will to power"?
"What is the value of individual freedom"?
"Does the equality of individual power leave us vulnerable to absolute power"?

They converse in an international language intelligible to every tongue because each of us has experienced something similar: the cultural and social void, the bullet train of world change, and the slow extinction of bio-cultural diversity.


Jacques de Beaufort said...

they're beautiful paintings fer sure.

but also kinda melodramatic.

figurative art often breaks out into mummery.

I like things better when they are either a little bit more over the top, or not trying quite so hard.

I'm not really into pointed fingers and overly emotive poses. seems sort of clumsy/heavy handed.

unless it's like totally psycopathic.

but that's just me.

New York City said...

Perhaps, but too much art is cold, cerebral, and passionless.

How does one effectively bring emotion back in? If these were more dramatic, it would become insincere - an ironic statement.

Caspar David Friedrich was quite over the top, as was Turner, but somehow it worked (for me at least).

Maybe its a compositional issue. There needs to be more space around the gestures for the eye to rest so that the emotive gesture is resonant and not spastic.

I agree about the pointy fingers. It always annoyed me when Sargent did it.