Where: Leo Gallery on Ferguson Lane, 376 Wu Kang Road near Tai’an Road 武康路376号近泰安路
Runs until:March 28, 2010
Currently running at the Leo Gallery in Ferguson Lane is an exhibition of works by three young Chinese artists. The selection focuses on works that were specifically not derivative of the iconic 1980s political pop artists, instead showcasing a new generation of art making in China by the best a Chinese art education could produce. Du Haijun is among the three.
Du was raised in a small town in Jiangsu Province before he went to the prestigious China Academy of Fine Arts. Last year, his “City impression: Window series” was awarded top marks at the Ministry of Culture-sponsored “National Youth Art Exhibition.” Recently, I got the chance to talk to Du about his work, why he moved to Shanghai, and what he thinks about the new generation of Chinese artists.
When did you first get interested in art?
Well, I’ve liked art and liked drawing since I was a child, but my formal training didn’t start until these last three, four years and I only really decided to become an artist during that time.
So it was only in college that you began pursuing the life of an artist?
Yeah yeah. I went to one art school around Hangzhou, next to Xihu.
Your works being showcased here at Leo Gallery are all oil paintings. Is that your preferred medium?
Yes, I normally do oil paintings, though I am also trained in other types of methods – brush painting, still life. In college, I liked to spend most of my time drawing smaller things, more daily life things. I would spend hours everyday just sketching stuff I came across and I would end up drawing about ten sketches every week.
When I came to Shanghai, I collected and organized all of my many sketches and then built something out of them.
So how long have you been in Shanghai? Why did you decide to move here?
3 and a half years now. Before this, I was teaching at a college in Jiangsu. There weren’t a lot of places to see art there – whenever an art exhibition opened nearby, it would invariably be in Shanghai. Finally, I decided that since I traveled to Shanghai so much anyway, I might as well live here.
The topic of your art is these multitudes of windows in buildings. When did you decide on this subject and why?
In 2006, when I first moved here, I was living in the Xuhui District. I was always looking out the window at other buildings. Then when I moved to Changning, I was across from some gorgeous, but dilapidated, old ones – they seemed to be about 70 to 80 years old. I would look out the window of my apartment and there would be this sea of windows to greet me.
Every window, whether it was open or closed, seemed to have a life story of its own. And I began sketching the various scenes, framed by the windows, that I came across.
Within each window, there’s just so much life – and you’ll never be able to capture everything behind those walls, but you get such a great imagery, a fraction of an individual life in an individual window.
So a lot of the works I have, I have themed around specific things. For instance, dorm life – you see the students and the fragments of their lives in each little space. So I have a piece that focuses on that.
Actually, the works shown here are some of the smaller window pieces I’ve done, because of space constraints. Some of my window pieces are two meters tall.
Two meters?! Are you drawing bigger windows at least?
(laughs) No no, still the small windows. Those take a long time to finish.
One of the themes of this art exhibit is fresh blood in China that no longer uses Maoist propaganda in their art. What do you think about this theme?
Well, the Mao-themed art mostly came from the last generation here in China, people who were born during a time where that was all there was. It was a hole, culturally, for China – and so when these people began creating their art, they had to take that big part of their life and look at it’s meaning, deconstruct it.
But I am a 70s generation person. And people like me and the 80s generation must look for something fresher, something that we lived through.
So what do you think is the focus of your generation?
I think that, in a way, the same way that the Propaganda-based artists took their predecessors work and reconstructed it, we are taking their work and putting our own twists on it. We are taking a look at the new China and trying to deconstruct, make sense of that.