With the rapid economic progress for the past twenty years in China, Chinese Avant-garde artists have accomplished great commercial success. And, the next-generation artists born in 70s and 80s have been forming contemporary art scenes in China, which are more varied and free than before.
The conceptual videos and large-scale installation are in fashion among young artists, which coercively depict China’s characteristic, large scale. Many group exhibitions featuring Chinese contemporary artists in renowned venues such as Guggenheim and Centre Pompidou not only include Avant-garde artists but also very young artists born in 90s.
Zhao Yiqian was born in 1982 in Shenyang and graduated from the Department of Lithography at Central Academy of Arts, the best art school in China. His hometown, Shenyang, in 80s was under the development as an industrial complex and the artist grew up in town confronting both farmers and factory workers and developed an ambivalent sense about industrialization. Zhao Yiqian felt empty in heard witnessing industrial society rapidly developing into the newer society with high technology, the Internet, and digital products and threw himself into the return back to and the study of the essence of painting. The artist who liked classics and humanities since youth, found it easier to interact with friends who went abroad to Europe, when the nation gradually entered an age of materialism.
Zhao especially attempted to lay the purity of painting in a new mode by neo-classically reinterpreting the resurrection of classicism during the Renaissance, rediscovery of nature, and individual creativity based on his own experiences, and research on post-humanism.
He attempted to find the essence of painting by combining the spirit of classicism with the icons of contemporary society and thus brought about minimalist painting with his novel concept.
Humanism or the human aspects such as sensibility, emotion, and creativity are the key issues in today’s society where A.I. is replacing human beings. For him, it is the artist’s role to try to return back to the age of classicism and recreate arts to reflect it through the mind of a young man. So the artist re-explores the importance of painting by thinking over and over the humanistic conceptions from the classics to the modern and spiritual issues embedded between two eras.
Zhao seeks to create the new, utopian beauty and find his own identity by succeeding the perspective of artists during the Renaissance who were proficient at many fields including architecture, painting, sculpture, design, and philosophy.
Completing the series after a few years of exploration into humanism and spatiotemporal themes, Zhao Yiqian successfully finished off his solo exhibition ‘Déjà vu’ at Today Art Museum in 2015 and again buried himself into the study of the essence of painting that the artist has been longed for.
Immersed in the classical paintings of the East and the West since 2016, the artist felt sad about the classic architecture and culture of the East that were destroyed compared to the well-preserved ones of the West. China especially went through the cut-off and destruction of its culture after the Cultural Revolution. People living busily within today’s society do not necessarily try to remember the past but for the artist who wanted to give a new try to his painting with humanistic and philosophical perspectives, the classic modes of painting and architecture of the West became an important motif.
As the mother nature that stays the same after a number of years, the viewers may experience the time of precedents who were ahead of us by thousands of years through the cultural and architectural traces they left off. The artist believes that the value of art lies on it and that is the essence of painting where humans merely exist as signs within the passing time of history and culture.
The contemporary icons that Zhao Yiqian picked up as subjects of his painting are smiley face and Anaglyph 3D glasses. The smile on the yellow, circular form, known as smiley face, were first made into badges in the 1960s. The smile is a sign of consumerism and also symbolizes a new way of public language and communication. Often used through emoticons on SNS and the sign for large retailers, the smiley faces were generally used as icons of intimacy, but later they were used as allegory to drug users and corrupt behaviors.
In the work New Classical deriving from Jan Baegert’s The Coronation of the Virgin, Zhao Yiqian replaces the halo with a smiley face. A halo in the classical period refers to the circle or light that is put around the head of Jesus or saints. A smiley face put behind the head of the Virgin Mary instead of a halo that is used to maximize the sacredness of Jesus seems to raise a question: what does being sacred and religious mean in the contemporary world and what do they mean to the modern people?
The foot which hints at the stigmata, the pants with Paisley patterns of GUCCI, and the smiley face in the work Heaven can be seen as newly interpreted icons of both classical and contemporary aspects of society. The signs of the consumer society that have replaced the religious signs refer to the new mode of individualism and materialism of the modern men who got away from old values of religion and authority.
The anaglyphs juxtaposed with a smiley face were developed by Leipzig in 1852 and used in commercial 3D movies for the first time in 1922. When Disney studio released 3D blue ray disks in 2008, they became widespread in the world. The anaglyphs, the origins of 3D glasses, are devices with the 3D effect providing images with the red color on the left and the blue color on the right.
The glasses are nevertheless the objects devised by humans. Despite the development of technology, the devices are upgraded for the ease of human beings without the soul in itself.
Here, too, the artist keeps up with exploration and experimentation in to the essence.
People wearing anaglyphs in Untitled and Beauty are depicted as the standardized collective rather than individual beings. They stare at us with colored glasses but what they’re staring at are not the essence of objects. Revealing smiley face and anaglyphs in his painting, Zhao Yiqian casts light upon the blind modern men who are unable to see through the essence, caught up with prevalent materialism in modern society.
The rapid development and growth of Chinese economy and contemporary art loaded young artists with impetuosity about being successful. Some artists are exclusively represented by internationally renowned mega-galleries and other local artists are struggling to attract attention. In the meanwhile, Zhao Yiqian has exceptionally launched his own brand with the motif of his own painting, HuXi. He designs, exhibits, and sells his brand products at art shops and design malls in UCCA, K11 Art Foundation, among others. Zhao also managed to design art products for digital exhibition of Klimt which attracted great public attention in China.
His products designed with juxtaposition and rearrangement of images in his own painting include clutches, cellphone cases, teapots, plates, cushions, T-shirts, etc. HuXi products depict the face of Jesus adorned in the cloth of Veronica, the landscape painting of Yuan Dyansty, Flowers and Birds painting of Southern Song Dynasty, and such. By reinterpreting and rearranging classic paintings with contemporary colors and backgrounds, the artist creates special products with high-quality materials and master craftsmanship with the theme of neo-classical minimalism.
Behind the launch of art and design brand, the creative director of GUCCI, Alessandro Michele, had a significant influence. A big fan of Michele, Zhao Yiqian draws a portrait of Michele wearing anaglyph 3D and features GUCCI Collection in his painting. Michele comes from the family who collected art and grew up watching Renaissance paintings at home. The sensational runway of GUCCI Collection in 2018 featured various motifs of classic masterpieces.
Michele’s attempt to graft humanism, supernaturalism and contemporary art with the Renaissance era are quite analogous in Zhao Yiqian’s brand HuXi.
HuXi motivated by Zhao’s own painting carries out Art in Life that keeps pace with Chinese government’s cultural support project. And, such trend is widely spreading among youngsters born in 90s who are the mainstream generations of consumerism.
GALLERY SU: presents Zhao Yiqian’s solo exhibition from 2 November to 2 December for the first time in Korea, which will encompass various concepts from his painting series that neo-classically reinterprets minimalism by adapting both classic signs and contemporary icons to his art brand, HuXi. The exhibition will provide a good opportunity to show the unconventional directionality led by the third generational post-80s artists.