Experimenting in an old art form

Figurative, or representational, art is an old genre. But a new exhibition staged by the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts aims to help modernize it.
Ti Gong

"Nirvana" by Zhou Yingchen

The Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts is staging an exhibition to promote a new, experimental future for figurative art in China.

“Beyond the Image — the 2nd Exhibition of the Experimental Figurative Painting Studio,” to be held from July 12 to 19 at the Liu Haisu Art Museum, will feature the works of nearly 20 artists — from veterans like Jiang Jianzhong to emerging talent.

Figurative, or representational, art is based on real objects rather than abstract representations.

It has long influenced Chinese art — from the academic to the public. Experts said the art form peaked during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76) when political posters were all the rage.

But with new ideas, especially with the impact of social media, it is no longer as popular.

“That’s why this figurative painting studio was set up in 2016 at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts,” said Xu Mingsong, curator of the exhibition, “in hope of nurturing Chinese figurative artists and finding new possibilities for this genre.”

In addition to artists from the academy, the exhibition has also invited painters from other cities and regions.

“The visual images of figurative art, especially in the present era, should not be limited to the traditions, memories or reference to the past,” said artist Jiang.

Instead, the exhibition tries to reflect a more personal perspective of the artists. For example, under the brushstrokes of Shi Zhiying, a piece of simple stone is fused with playful tones.

The highlight goes to Zhou Yingchen, whose work features a kind of “freezing moment” on the canvas. The light and shade cast on an ordinary street scene is mysteriously soothing.

Curator Xu said a larger-scale exhibition is under planning for next year in Beijing.

Exhibitioin details

Date: July 12-19, 10am-4pm
Venue: Liu Haisu Art Museum
Address: 1609 Yan’an Rd W.

Ti Gong

"Stone" by Shi Zhiying

Ti Gong

"Juxtaposition" by Huang Jingjing

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