Mao Yan 毛焰, ‘Untitled’, 2011, Sifang Art Museum

About Mao Yan 毛焰

Mao Yan’s luminous, soft-colored oil portraits place his sitters in quiet abstract settings, capturing them without any prominent emotion or expression and often only simple outlines for clothing. Mao attempts to use as few brushstrokes as possible in an effort to simplify form and capture an essence rather than a likeness. “I don’t pay more attention to representation of individuality; excessive attention to representation could only lead to narrow-mindedness,” he has said. Mao is perhaps best known for his “Thomas Series” (1998-2009), a collection of nearly 100 portraits of a close friend and Luxembourgish expatriate named Thomas who, by the end of the series, resembles an ethereal shadow, his likenesses bathed in so much light and movement as to verge on abstraction.

Chinese, b. 1968, Xiangtan, Hunan Province, China, based in Nanjing, China