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Born in 1979, Shi Yanqing studied printmaking under the famous Chinese master printmaker Zhang Minjie and has demonstrated extraordinary talent. Despite having won several prizes for his art, he presents his modest roots and tradition in the series, "My Villagers." The series displays deep sincerity for the subject matter.
It was not easy for Shi Yanqing's generation to find their own artistic identity. Traditional roots, the aftermath of Maoist indoctrination and collectivity and now the euphoric entrance into the future of high technology all made it difficult for the young people of Shi Yanqing's generation to find a common unifying spirit.
Shi Yanqing successfully found his own personal artistic path on the edge of the old. Shi Yanqing sticks to tradition by using woodcut techniques. But his works are also contemporary for his expressive style. The assertions and symbolism in his pictures are universal in their directness and thus timeless.
As Shi Yanqing himself explained, the seven piece series My Villagers presents the portraits of people from his hometown, a remote and underdeveloped village in the Shanxi province.
The artist presents, however, the unending richness of the human qualities of the village's hardworking residents. Shi Yanqing explicitly presents their frankness and affection and gives them his appreciation and esteem, as opposed to his love.
He doesn't idealize but rather presents the people as they are. But there is this sensitive sympathy for the characters, the individuals, which makes the portraits lively and gives them a presence. In each of the portraits there is a soft but striking plea for the understanding of values that cherish each person as worthwhile and valuable, regardless of their social and economic situation.
The portraits in the series all share a common subject matter and they are arranged according to color. The first picture is mostly yellow monotone with some gray and grayish browns.
In the other pictures, the remaining primary colors - red and blue - interact with each other. But they only cowardly mix with each other. The colors do, however, gradually develop a powerful palette.
The village is seen in the backgrounds of the paintings and their stone houses and walls. These backgrounds are also monotone. But the palette is lighter and contrasts with the intense colors of the portraits. In this manner the figures in the portraits step out into the foreground and they look at the viewers with the right eye and a friendly smile. They want to win your sympathy and to share their values with the viewer.
The pictures of the series "My Villagers" unfurl their impact in many different ways. Shi Yanqing created a row of pictures of striking expressions. It's not an end but a means to provoke the emotional sympathies to the concerns of the artist. The presented characters are arguments that urge the viewer to think about the value and dignity of man.
rp November 2007
(edited and updated by Dieter Wanczura, May 2009)
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Works by emerging Chinese artists in BUYDIRECT.