Contemporary Chinese art has unveiled an increasingly rich, diverse and complex visage as it presses forward. Without intent, the “trend” has become a veiled but distinctive barometer. Artists from Northeast China appear to be the black horse with Luxun Academy of Fine Arts spearheading art education in the region, cultivating a number of art students with excellent training. At the same time, as the region is expansive and art in the area relatively isolated, northeast art production markedly differs from that in other cities, and has shown an independent and vivid character. As the market comes to grip with gradual exploration, discovery and promotion, the “northeast trend” appears to be around the corner, fast becoming a novel phenomenon in contemporary Chinese art landscape. In retrospect, all art forms develop rapidly and become objects of courtship after having been acknowledged and recognized. It is not necessarily a bad thing for art to thrive and progress in a regional atmosphere, as long as it is actively explored and truthfully presented.
Our exhibition features eight young women artists from Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, either new graduates or graduate students, all born in the region in the 1980s. Ginseng grows in abundance in Northeast China. As the title of the exhibition, “ginseng” not only imbues the exhibition with a geographical connotation but is indicative of a mild life force, and a rich, delicate and subtle form of art. In the 1960s, Feminist Art was born out of feminist movement. At the outset, this art form assumed the shape of collectivity and uniqueness, in confrontation with men’s art in general, seeking equal opportunity and rights from the viewpoint of women artists. By the 1980s and 1990s, radicalism and confrontation slowly subsided. While against femininity, women artists in both the West and the East were more mindful of the establishment of feminist cultural identity and of exploring the value and significance of feminist society, from their respective experiences.
Since 2000, however, as the post 1980s women artists live in a relatively freer social environment and a richer material life, significant changes in both attitude and orientation took place. Gender related differences are ebbing away and new generation women artists have come to embrace independence, freedom, tolerance and equality and their works have become more vibrant, diverse and liberal.
Northeast China is a relatively marginalized region, which happens to render the artistic environment there more pure and stable. The participating artists have all studied in the city of Shenyang and the vast majority now lives there as well, where most artists have other sources of income and lead a freer life, without too much pressure and tension. Artistically, they are more mild and at ease. Most of them work in rented or self-owned flat and live quite apart, therefore peer influence is minimal and their works are more individualized exploration and meditation, their artistic language autonomous and self-centered. That can be easily felt from their participating works. In addition, as new generation artists, they present something fresh in their art. Instead of adhering to the beauty of form characteristic of women artists, they base their work on realistic experience and inner sentiments, breaking the gender boundary and choosing the theme and artistic expressions that befit them. From the exterior, their works do not follow the trend but define a direct, magnanimous and subtle sentiment. Although most works concern everyday life and emotional feelings, they have embedded in them different wisdoms, and diverse and rich values. The broad evolution of feminist art renders localized art production meaningful. Although the group exhibition of the eight women artist cannot give a broad representative view of the landscape of women artists, we hope that it will steer us towards putting on our thinking cap.