Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Page 15 News List

ART JOURNAL : Talkin’ ‘bout their generation

Chinese artists Yang Na and Mu Lei examine female sexuality and foreign threats in a new exhibit at the Metaphysical Art Gallery

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER


The generation of Chinese artists born after 1980 differs from their creative forebearers. Rather than use foreign brand names or domestic government figures to make political statements, these artists seek to create works that reflect their own lived experiences.

These are the views expressed by Yang Na (楊納), 27, and Mu Lei (穆磊), 25, two Beijing-based Chinese artists whose oil paintings are currently on display at the Metaphysical Art Gallery in an exhibit titled The Fable of Fairy Tale (童話寓言).

“I think good artists express what is around them,” Mu said. “Older artists depicted Mao [Zedong (毛澤東)] or [the] Tiananmen [massacre] because that was part of their lives. We are different. We only know Mao from books and were too young to remember [Tiananmen].”

Mu and Yang hail from a generation of artists that Taiwanese art critic and Fable of Fairy Tale curator Victoria Lu (陸蓉之) dubs “animamix,” a term that combines “comics” and “animation.” Though trained in more traditional mediums, their aesthetic embraces the latest global technologies and fads.

Yang’s canvases sardonically explore female sexuality. They allude to the unhealthy control that contemporary fashion exerts over her generation of women who obsess over the latest trends.

Her palette is culled straight from the world of cosmetics as seen in magazines like Vogue or Cosmopolitan. Lipstick reds, eye shadow blues and mascara blacks appear on a canvas of alabaster whites. Petite noses, false eyelashes, plucked eyebrows and lips covered with lip gloss are set perfectly — too perfectly it seems — on a large face that has the glow of porcelain and a small curvaceous body.


WHAT: The Fable of Fairy Tale (童話寓言)

WHERE: Metaphysical Art Gallery (形而上畫廊), 7F, 219, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路一段219號7樓)

WHEN: Until Oct. 4. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11am to 6:30pm. Tel: (02) 2711-0055


But the surface sexuality feels superficial and hollow — a hodge-podge of parts drawn from movies, videos and Internet games. The woman in Shattered Incantation (破碎的魔咒) listlessly gazes at the viewer as blood spurts out of the cherry red heart she crushes in her hands. Black sperm swim around her head and are almost indistinguishable from the mane of hair that falls in curls down her arched back. The painting suggests both the power and shallowness of her feminine sexuality.

Golden House for My Beloved (金屋藏嬌) presents a studded door with a large keyhole behind which a waifish and pale young woman uses her right hand to apply lipstick to her mouth as her left hand caresses her breast. She wears a tight-fitting black jumpsuit that is unbuttoned down to her navel, revealing a portion of her pink areolas, an exposure that provides the same sense of voyeurism as the phallic keyhole that we look through.

Where Yang adopts a hyper-sexualized visual language in her work, Mu juxtaposes the head of Yang (who is his model in this series of paintings) with high-powered military hardware.

Her head appears at the top of Black Strong Waves (黑色波瀾). From her mouth drips a black oily liquid that explodes onto white submarines that litter the reflective watery surface below. White Strong Waves (白色波瀾) gives us the same battle scene, but with spittle instead of black. The diptych recalls the story of David and Goliath, where a seemingly weaker opponent battles and defeats a larger foe.

B-2 bombers replace submarines as the symbol of military might in The Taiji Rain Helmet (太極雨盔). The female character wears a helmet emblazoned with a yin-and-yang symbol, a protective covering that the planes crash into. It implies that China’s people and traditions have the strength to withstand the onslaught of foreign powers.

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