16
Jul
09

Review: Guo Jian paintings at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th June – 25th July 2009

 

Guo Jian. 'No.c' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.c
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

 

This exhibition of eight new paintings and one older work by Chinese artist Guo Jian presented at Arc One Gallery in Melbourne is, with the exception of one outstanding painting, a disappointment. The new work addresses, variously, themes of consumerism, stardom, sex appeal, the military and Chinese culture. Using old photographs as reference and inserting the body and face of the artist into the canvases, Jian examines the paradoxes that exist between Western/American and Chinese culture to limited effect.

Using a restricted colour palette in each painting Jian’s ‘mise en scène’ places American soldiers and babes wearing bikinis of distorted American flags with the artist as lone Chinese soldier – his face pulled into focus while the other figures almost become cut-outs with the overlay of a “blur filter” softening their features. In another set piece Untitled 3 (2009) a seductive woman with flaming red hair and half open jacket holds a bottle of Chloe perfume in her hand while behind Chinese female military dancers brandish swords and red flags. In No.g (2009) two soldiers with guns propped behind them read contrasting books – one the ‘Little Red Book’ and the other ‘A Big Naughty Girly Magazine’. Marilyn and Madonna feature heavily, pastiches in a built environment – all pink and fleshy with a silver heart (perhaps it should have been a Purple Heart).

The iconography in these staged ‘tableaux vivants’ is a one shot idea repeated in all eight paintings. The themes seem hackneyed, their language a bricolage of ironic archetypes that don’t have anything new to say about the subject matter but repeat things we know already: vis a vis that Chinese society is struggling to cope with the burden of becoming a consumer culture. On reflection, the new paintings have not impinged on my consciousness – always a sign whether the work really has made a connection. However, the single work from 2003 is a different beast.

The Training from the series The Day Before I Went Away (2003) is a hypnotic, mesmerising and powerful work, lurid even, with it’s hyper-real colours and maniacal faces, eyes rolling in the back of heads, barring of teeth, the hand over the mouth, the upraised hand, the glistening white of the blade – oh the lust for blood!

This painting is so evocative it shames the new work by comparison – you think about this work, you remember it!

Here is the passion and insightfulness of the artist. Danger and terror grab you and shake you and force you to think about the human condition. This is what I want art to do in whatever way it can – subtly, quietly, psychologically, forcefully. Great art challenges us to look, feel and think. Unfortunately the new work, while clever on a superficial level, fails to deliver.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog.

.
Many thankx to the Arc One Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting.

 

Guo Jian. 'No.d' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.d
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

 

“This series is about looking at the persuasion or morale boosting efforts for soldiers from another perspective. I considered how starlets and celebrities are deployed in the West – often not dissimilarly to the way Chinese Entertainment Soldiers are used to influence and motivate in my part of the world.” ~ Guo Jian

 

Guo Jian. 'No.f' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.f
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

Guo Jian. 'No.g' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.g
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

Guo Jian. 'Untitled 3' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
Untitled 3
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

 

Born in China in 1963, Jian was raised in a controlled political environment. He served over three years in the Peoples Liberation Army and bore witness to the horrific Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, where he assisted carrying the wounded to the hospital.

Jian’s personal atlas of history continues to feed his visual commentary. His voice is both satirical and erotic, challenging and confronting. He plays with irony and foreplay to exploit and raise potent questions surrounding propaganda and manipulation.

“As I have grown older, I have realised that all of the education I have received is rarely practical in real life. Reality and education are conflicting. The way in which you inherently view the world is influenced by education which is the perspectives of others. Our surrounding environment defines our perception of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘enemy’ and ‘friend’, ‘them’ and ‘us’. But, if you dare to open your eyes and liberate your mind, you will find that the world is not exactly the way you have been told. Put your feet into someone else’s shoes to think about the world and your own life differently. For me, if the surroundings change, are combined, are old or new, it doesn’t matter. My life is defined relative to my self-experience and the things I have heard or seen. From this perspective, I have discovered the freedom to reopen my eyes to a new world and to new possibilities.”

Guo Jian

Text from the press release on the Arc One Gallery website [Online] Cited 10/07/2009

 

Guo Jian. 'The Training' from the series 'Te Day Before I Went Away' 2003

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
The Training from the series The Day Before I Went Away
2003

 

 

Arc One Gallery
45 Flindes Lane
Melbourne, Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11 – 5pm

Arc One Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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