Leading artists of the Chinese art movement ‘Mao Goes Pop’ are exhibiting new work in Perth, as part of an Australian based art project, Shanghai Star.New paintings by mainland Chinese artists Yu Youhan and Li Shan, and the Chinese-Australian artist, Fan Dongwang, were created during a recent residency at the Casula Powerhouse in Western Sydney. Shanghai Star features new work, photographs and previous work by these artists, to enable Australian audiences to acquire a greater insight of the ‘Mao Goes Pop’ art movement.
Shanghai Star investigates the commonalities of contemporary Chinese visual culture and the universality of cultural experience. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue explore topics such as gender, technology, cultural icons and the merger between eastern and western cultural practices. Shanghai Star will also examine the globalisation of Chinese culture and its current relationship with the West.
The artists Yu Youhan and Li Shan are regarded by the English art critic Edward Lucie-Smith in his book, Visual Art in the 20th Century as the foremost figures of China’s ‘Mao Goes Pop’ art movement. Fan Dongwang was a student, later colleague and fellow artist of Yu Youhan. In 1986, the three artists exhibited together in the inaugural Shanghai Art Museum Exhibition.
SHANGHAI STAR is a national touring exhibition, which brings together the work of Chinese artists LI Shan, YU Youhan and Australian Chinese artist FAN Dongwang. The artists have created works whilst in residence at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre from August through to September 2001.
This is the first time that these three artists have worked together in Australia. The body of work that the artists have produced explores the transition, change and sense of uncertainty in the present age of globalisation. The transformation taking place in China, as traditional culture is superseded by one of capitalism and mass culture is another theme that is explored.
YU Youhan believes that the present is a critical time for China, a time when traditional culture is disappearing and the future is uncertain:
A new culture may or may not re-emerge from the old. The recent developments in the Chinese economy have been quite substantial, but the changes in the soul and the mind of the people have not yet been as great as the economic changes. I have used mainly grey colour tones to express my inner feelings as well as the sense of uncertainty of the Chinese people. My paintings are not meant to be pretty. Nor are they meant to be sensational and playful, like much of the contemporary art being produced in the West.
In the paintings of FAN Dongwang the idea of a shifting perspective is the main concern. FAN Dongwang’s identity as a Chinese artist living and working in Australia is explored in his work, through references to traditional Chinese artistic practices, as well as western:
The idea of shifting perspective that I develop in my work can also be used to describe my own personal experience and identity as a Chinese artist living in Australia. Perspective can be understood in two ways; it is both a method of observation as well as a metaphor for one’s social and cultural outlook.
The main focus, in the paintings of LI Shan, is on forms of life,in the past, present and the future. LI Shan is interested in human nature and the levels of destruction it is capable of:
Human beings are too cunning. I don’t like human beings. Their high levels of intelligence often result in many catastrophes. Hence we should produce new and better forms of life and we should have the moral courage to sacrifice ourselves for a better one.
The Shanghai Star catalogue explores these themes further, and documents the artists residency at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. The exhibition and residency Shanghai Star marks a unique opportunity to view global, Australian and Chinese issues from a different perspective.