“I attempt to multiply the power of temptation by displaying it on my canvasses.”
The Chinese artist Ling Jian paints attractive young women of Asian descent in a hyperrealist and exaggerated manner that reflects his two decade study of and immersion in European art.
As he told the lifestyle magazine Homemtl “Young women are a very ancient and eternal art topic. During my return to the Chinese culture in recent years, great changes have taken place there. I grew during the Cultural Revolution period. Sexy, vane, vulnerable woman did not exist, or [they were] not allowed to exist. But the reality of today in a commercial society, all of which shows in front of you, the ideal values and the practical values have conflicted greatly causing the vanity, vulnerability and sexuality.”
An observation Jian expands upon in his essay Something transient – A choice of temptation. “The cold skin of the lady in my painting symbolizes a high degree of spiritual indifference and melancholy that come[s] about when ideals have vanished… If we take a chronological look at the history and evolution of humanity, women are very often the symbol of an era. By taking a closer look at the changes in women and how they are represented, various changes can be suggested about the human race. By the same token, women’s attire, decorum and the manner that they are advertised in pictures aptly represents Shanghai in the 1920’s, the Renaissance in Europe and even present day global developments that we have come to understand in terms of politics, economics and culture through these respective periods – women are the manifestation of myriad personalities and lifestyles in a particular climate. This is why it can be said that women take the lead in changing the times. These “beautiful women’ in my paintings are simply spiritual representations of the Chinese and their new found complacency towards neo-nationalism as well as towards their values and aesthetic perspectives.”
Born in 1963, Jian grew up during the restrictive times of China’s Cultural Revolution. In the 1980’s he studied abstraction at the Fine Arts Department of Tsinghua University Art College in Beijing and after graduating he moved to Europe.
As he told Zhang Yizhou in a 2008 interview “Abstract art didn’t have any meaning for me. I couldn’t express my feelings or the interesting times we live in with it. Age strides such big space in time, from the proletariat 1950’s and 1960’s when I was a boy, when there was a revolutionary ideal in difficult economic situations, to 1980’s and 1990’s when I was abroad, discovering that the economic development in the West gave rise to the high quality of the cultural life, till I came back to China in late 1990’s when China has already started its substantial boom. Those huge changes formed my ideas about many things. Many questions, contradictions and ideal impacts.”
Now working in a realist style which combined with Jian’s cross cultural fertilization enables him to speak to both the East and the West.
As the American art critic Peter Frank noted in his essay Ling Jian – Two Worlds, One System “Ling Jian’s art is, thus, not Westernized Chinese art (or, for that matter, Orientalized western art), but a carefully negotiated hybridization calibrated to the artist’s expressive concerns… What speaks to Chinese circumstances not only speaks to Westerners about those circumstances, but speaks to Western conditions as well. Ling’s paintings, it turns out, are not windows onto a distant civilization, but mirrors of the global village into which the distance has been collapsing.”
Jian’s current exhibition Nature Chain is on show at New York’s Klein Sun Gallery until the 23rd of December.