Shen Jingdong – 2007
At first glance the white porcelain statue by Shen Jingdong reminds us of Mao Zedong, but upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that the statue is that of a lowly PLA soldier. Shen’s statues resonate especially with the pre-1960’s generation. Emperor and soldier, god and man, revolution and peace, all these things are united in one piece of art.
Shen Jingdong sculpts the faces of ordinary soldiers. This reminds me of Luo Zhongli’s painting “Father”, which was first exhibited in the 1980’s. At that time we were conditioned to think of a father figure as someone like Stalin, Mao or Kim Il-sung, but “father” could also mean just an ordinary farmer who has suffered life’s hardships and whose hardships are engraved in the deep wrinkles on his face as depicted in Luo’s painting.
People have said Shen Jingdong’s soldier looks like Lei Feng (a model hero of the Mao era), but I think his statue is the image of Shen Jingdong himself. He named his series “Hero” unifying the god, the hero and himself into one identity. “God created the hero, the hero is me, and I am the god.”
Shen Jingdong studied the art of porcelain; first he made sculpture and then later started oil painting. He has found his own iconic symbol, symbols are so important in art; the bald head or big mouth, the old poster or old photograph, these items have all become recognizable symbols, representing the style of the artist, conveying their point of view and the way they see the world. International designer Louis Vuiton developed two or three kinds of patterns and with these has developed all kinds of products making a fortune from women from all over the world.
Chinese contemporary art mostly has its roots in the hard times of the Cultural Revolution; many of the works feel heavy and laden with sadness.
Shen Jingdong’s oil painting series have no heaviness about them, the composition technique is powerful, you can feel the quality, and sense the smoothness of his strokes, his colours are lively and fresh. The figures themselves are doll-like even cartoonish and easy to like. Viewing Shen Jingdong’s paintings make us think about our history and make us compare it with our current life experiences, making us feel happy and bright.
Fong Yuk Yan