To look at the Chinese contemporary art currently dominating international auctions, one might think political dissent its primary theme. After all, Yue Minjun’s Execution, a piece openly mocking government power, sold for close to 3 million pounds last October at Sotheby’s. But it was bought by a foreigner.
Who are China’s young artists, and what’s on their minds? For answers to those questions, we can look to Yi Hui, an exponent of Chinese contemporary art’s youngest faction, the ‘One Child Generation’. Like her peers and the China she lives in, she is affluent, up-to-date, and acutely fashion conscious. Subversive symbolism carries little weight in her approach to painting. Introspection and the celebration of the individual guide her brush.
“Artists from the ‘One Child Generation’ draw criticism for drifting away from the protest of our predecessors,” Yi Hui reflects. “I think they’ve forgotten what they were struggling for. They wanted a China in which they were free to paint what they wanted. Now that we can, what good is it to stay obsessed with Chairman Mao and political oppression?”
Indeed, the concept of doing good with one’s art holds little water with the ‘One Child Generation’. “Imagine telling Lautrec or Kandinsky that their first responsibility was changing society for the better,” Yi Hui suggests. “What would be the point? Anything that gets in the way of an artist and what’s in her heart is a distraction at best, a confinement at worst. If the work is inspired, it is good in and of itself.”
Incident in Honey Moon
Thus the freedom with which Yi Hui explores themes of sexuality and femininity in her paintings. The freedom may be a privilege won by others, but she is enjoying it to the utmost. What freedom fighter could have asked for more?
Melancholy Love Affair