Chen Jiagang, Yang Yong, Yang Yongliang, Liu Bolin, Song Chao …
Chinese art dominates the international contemporary art today: painters beat sale records, abstract artists build vast installations.
Chinese photography has the peculiarity to be extremely narrative and very often spectacular. Chinese society, hyper dynamic, allows its artists to realize works which few westerners’ artists are able to realize. Halfway between painting and cinema, Chinese photography is inventing a new approach which contrasts strongly with our western tradition, traditionally more attached to a certain shape of realism.
What are the characteristic traits of the contemporary Chinese photography?
The works of the Chinese photographers are often very surprising because they operate in several phases and on several semantic levels. Attractive at first sight, they reveal a deeper sense after a few moments of consideration. Light-hearted in the first look, the performances of Liu Bolin speak to us in fact about the disappearance of the body in our contemporary societies.
Also for Yang Yongliang: under an appearance of attractive Chinese traditional painting, the photographer questions about the representation of the nature while destroyed and consumed by the city. The attractive postcards of Chen Jiagang are in fact a very shady comment on the destructive dreams of human being greatness. The nice-looking girls highlighted by Yang Yong plunge us into the space and the superficiality of a Chinese youth full of dreams.
These artists produce thoughtful images positioned well beyond the simple depiction of reality. The starting point of the conception is the will to produce a representation of the world or an idea of it by the photography. To do it, all the means are good: spectacular juncture, digital retouch, assemblage of thousand images …
The issues and the problems approach by the Chinese photographers are identical to those which drive us today in the West. Only their thought is different. The Chinese artists thus open new profoundly enlightening perspectives because they rest on a radically different conception of the human being.
With a humanism which places the individual at the heart of anything, the Chinese thought describes the human being as fragile who is as a final point a little thing in regards of nature and society. Chinese artists allow us finally to better know and understand one self.
The photography is strong by the fact that it expresses itself directly, without text. It is another way of telling, more incisive than the text or the video, by which it is possible to say more things. Photography carries in it a state of mind of freedom, and it is what Chinese photographers try to transmit.
Within the framework of a revival of China, which takes more and more significance at the global level, the photography has an essential meaning! It allows China to go out of a western look on the country. The photographers are in the front line to observe the shifts of the society: they work in a sense to make the heritage of tomorrow.
The contemporary Chinese photography can in a general way be divided into two sorts. There are in the first place the professional photographers who take as starting point the traditional techniques of the photography, who attach value to the composition, the use of colors, and which aim to grab the developments of the Chinese society.
Then there are the contemporary artists-photographers from the dynamic Pekinese scene, who possess a look and a sharp discernment on the Chinese society, who use the digital techniques, and this synthesis thus engenders works reflecting the spirit of our time.
Liu Bolin is doubtless one of the most omnipresent Chinese photographers on the international artistic scene. Indeed it seems almost impossible to have never seen his intriguing pictures where a disguising silhouette is vaguely to be distinguished, such a chameleon, often in an urban set.
Works, from Hiding in the City, were the first ones to be revealed to the public. But the art of Liu
Bolin is more varied than it appears; Liu Bolin tries in fact to make visible what is invisible.
One of his successes, the sale of a large format by auction at Sotheby in New York on October 16th, 2007. Amount of the transaction? US$ 37 000. Before this, Moma and the International Center of the Photography in New York had already bought photography of the artist.
But the presentation of his edifying prize list does not say what makes its strength. The answer lies at first in the choice of his subject, namely these cities which formerly shaped the « Third Line ».
Return in the 1960s. Mao, worried about tensions with the Soviet neighbor, decides to move inside lands the heavy industries and the arms factories situated near the Russian border. This is the way millions of Chinese streamed in the mountains of Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan to work in new constructed factories.
But after a period of magnificence, arises a new reversal two decades later as Deng Xiaoping comes to power and pushes China towards a market economy. As a result, "Third Line" industrial plants are left as fast as brought out of the ground.
It is the memory of these places forgotten in the Chinese remembrance, formerly symbol of the national glory that Chen Jiagang succeeds in reviving with strength.
Himself native of Chongqing, Chen Jiagang attended these upheavals. Marked by the image of these places which disappear silently, he chose to return to it to immortalize them.