Shanghai Art Gallery - Chinese Contemporary Art

  Towards Credulity
by Rosalie Tombeur

While combining realism and expressionism, Mao Yanyang new works surprises the observer with very audacious paintings. Using daily broadcasted images he appeals to the spectator’s collective and individual memory shaped true years of media confrontation.

But there’s a very big difference between those known images and Mao Yanyang’s Works. The audacity of the artist’s ideas is expressed true the constant presence of several microphones in every single one of his paintings. This presence might seem kind of irrelevant and surreal, certainly when the artist is depicting war scenes, but they symbolize in fact the transformation of our world into an image consuming universe.

We are all aware that images (paintings, photography, films...) are produced directly or indirectly by men. They are not simple recollections of reality but constructed objects entertaining a very complicated relationship with reality. What we see on TV, in the newspapers or on canvasses does not represent reality but is more likely to be a human sign technically produced. And yet, we do not want to face this fact and tempt to take all images for granted.  What we recall of History is what we heard of it, what we saw of it or what we felt of it...Basically we must keep in mind that historical facts spread true point of views and that point of views are by definition always personal and subjective. Mao Yanyang’s paintings questions history’s liability. He confronts the viewer with historical scenes and personalities to remind us not to be fooled by the so- called objectivity of images, speeches or texts.

"The main purpose of the "microphones", as a part of different historical events creating a surreal effect amidst depiction of conflicts, is to reveal in my works a dramatic absurdity mixed with hyper reality. This should lead the viewer to question the truth of media reports on historical events. No one can figure out exactly what happened in history".

The artist mingles with various subjects: taking us from apocalyptic war scenes to a couple kissing passionately, from a smoking monkey to a depiction of the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope Benedict the XVI. The works are a combination of the artist fertile imagination as well as his own recollection of media images reminding us that he too, is part of the system and stressing the fact that collective and individual consciousness is shaped by the media. 

By depicting animals in his paintings, Mao Yanyang’s states his attention towards environmental protection and human’s direct influence on the animal’s faith. Animals are submitted to the human power the way humans are submitted to the media’s. Since humans and animals are interdependent the artist suggest us to take responsibility and act instead of burying our heads in the sand.

The audacity of Mao Yanyang’s paintings lies in the fact that they are basically an open critic to the media system controlling our world. Considering China’s history of censorship and media control one can only applaud the artist’s courage and clear-sightedness.


© Art Scene Warehouse and Mao Yanyang
Images of art by Mao Yanyang may not be reproduced without the prior
written presmission of Mao Yanyang or Art Scene Warehouse, Shanghai.