Childhood should always be alive in the adult

2013-01-28 05:32:59 GMT2013-01-28 13:32:59(Beijing Time)  China Daily
Yan Shilin's life-sized, colored copper-cast statues of young children. (Photo/China Daily)Yan Shilin's life-sized, colored copper-cast statues of young children. (Photo/China Daily)
Under the paintbrush of Sun Ying, characters appear sad in an idealistic world.(Photo/China Daily)Under the paintbrush of Sun Ying, characters appear sad in an idealistic world.(Photo/China Daily)
Li Zhihong paints his daughter from a father's perspective.(Photo/China Daily)Li Zhihong paints his daughter from a father's perspective.(Photo/China Daily)

A group of young contemporary Chinese artists present a show that looks at fairytales. Chen Nan is informed that it's important for adults to be reminded of what it felt to be a child.

A child's fairytales are often destroyed by reality on becoming an adult, but the exhibition Boys and Girls by six young, award-winning contemporary Chinese artists emphasizes their continued importance.

Curated by Shi Ning and organized by Beijing's Line Gallery, the exhibition showcases the works of Yan Shilin, Sun Ying, Han Ning, Jin Haofan, Li Zhihong and Hao Lang.

They employ a wide variety of media, from oil to acrylic on canvas, fiberglass and colored copper-cast statues. But despite their diversity, the works focus on childhood innocence and hope.

"Do you remember your childhood dreams? Maybe you lost that dream or misplaced it years ago," writes Sun Ying in her preface for the show.

"When we look back at our lives, we realize that we have lost so much happiness. Sometimes happiness slips away without us noticing," she says.

Sun's artistic world is populated by animals such as rabbits and geese and has an Alice In Wonderland feel.

However, the characters appear sad because the painter regrets that such a world doesn't exist in reality.

As the exhibition planner Luo Ying says: "The contrast of sorrowful eyes and clean colors conveys Sun's ideas to the outside world."

In March 2011, Sun's solo exhibition, Talk to Her, was shown at Line Gallery. A year later, she held the exhibition, Garden of Dreaming.

The protagonist in Sun's paintings has changed little over the years and the sad, stubborn and sensitive girl remains.

"It's through my paintings that I can memorize specific moments in my life. Through my paintings, I become peaceful and innocent," she says.

Sun's compositions are simple and direct because she believes this gives them power and a subconscious element.

The 30-year-old Sun, from Hebei province, graduated from the fine arts department of Beijing Film Academy. She worked as an editor and filmmaker, notably in director Chen Kaige's film The Promise.

Sun says she likes returning to her dusty old attic and getting out childhood toys so she can reinterpret them, such as in her painting, No Signposts in the Sea.

The success of Diary of a Little Bear made her determined to be an independent artist.

"My dream is to portray my life and the world I see. The protagonists that appear in my works convey my personality and tell my stories," she says.

Yan Shilin's life-sized colored copper-cast statues of young children are another highlight of the show.

Born in Changsha, Hunan province, the 30-year-old Yan's childhood experiences have heavily influenced his sculptures. He grew up with his grandparents and says he often felt out of place and frightened.

His series Sleepless Tonight uses "earplugs" to symbolize his isolation from the outside world and the helplessness he felt as a child. The series was shown at his 2010 solo exhibition in Beijing and the 2011 Future Pass Collateral Event at the 54th Venice Biennial.

Yan's largest work, Don Quixote into Wonderland, which is displayed outdoors at 798 Art Zone, has a figure on the back of a horse wearing a rabbit cap. It represents the artist setting out on a journey to a faraway wonderland.

The ongoing exhibition presents Yan's latest work, My Other Self, which depicts a pair of twins holding hands.

"They are all me, two sides of myself, mirroring each other in the real world," Yan comments.

Now working and living in Songzhuang, east of Beijing, Yan, like most Chinese post-80s artists, fights for his dreams and expresses his vision through sculpture.

The exhibition also features 43-year-old artist Li Zhihong's oil paintings, in which he paints his daughter, from a father's perspective.

"Their artworks do not have an academic style. With strong independent personalities, participants reveal their inner child's moods," says Li Chengpeng, a curator from Line Gallery.

John Vouillamoz, general manager of Langham Place, Beijing Capital International Airport, says: "It's important for adults to be reminded of what it felt like to be a child. Hopefully, art lovers will find some personal insight into their own childhood through this inspiring exhibition."

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