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Up close and personal: Yang Fudong in Athens

06 April 2010 / 17:04:27  GRReporter
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Some people saw in it the new Michelangelo Antonioni. Others described it as the resurrection of the French Nouvlele Vaguea from the 60s of the past century. The truth is that the retro mysterious and poetic natural black and white paintings of Yang Fudong charm. They carry the viewer into a surreal beautiful, Chinese wise, sophisticated Louis Vuitton style world of melancholy, romanticism and artistry, which somehow fits very well in the hectic everyday summer in Athens. What does Athens have to do with Yang Fodong? The common thing is that the National museum of modern art will be hosting the first exhibition of the artist in Greece which will be opened on May 11th and it will be opened for visitors in the building of the museum until September 5th 2010. Curator of the exhibition is the director of the museum Anna Kafetsi.

For many people its title “Seven intellectuals in a bamboo forest and other stories” will sound confusing and so I would like to make it clear. It comprises of the epic cinema installation “Seven intellectuals in a bamboo forest”, 2003 – 2007 which puts its author on the top of the contemporary Chinese art, the newer installation of 6 video channels “East from the Ku village”, 2007, the monumental installation of 10 video channels “Close to the sea”, 2004 and an earlier film of the painter – “Liu Lan”, 2003.

It is about video installations on multiple screens placed in a way which embarrasses the viewer rather than facilitating him in his desire to follow all the strings of the story which Yang Fudong is telling. And exactly this is where the master skills of the artist are shown, who not only captures our attention all the time, but when our heart feels it cannot take any more emotional pressure we get out of the hall in order to come back there in a day, a week, a month or the next time we meet the exhibition of Fudong somewhere around the world. However we definitely come back.

The films of the artist have been made with a 35 millimeters black and white camera the stylistics of which are taking us into the Chinese cinema from the 30s and 40s of the 20th century on one side, however at the same time carries some high technological taste, it carries the atmosphere of the highly developed industrial society with its over progressed infrastructure. Actually the inner contradiction, ambiguity, and vagueness are a typical element of the style of Yang Fudong. Take for example his most popular work “Seven intellectuals in a bamboo forest”. I is inspired by the ancient Chinese saying from the 3rd century about the seven wise men disgusted by the intrigues in the emperor’s residence who retire somewhere deep in the province in order to thing and work.

In a similar way Yang Fudong follows seven young intellectuals, a symbol of the confused young generation in China who are presented indifferent and dreamy, to contemplate its own marginal space of actions and personal desires. A contemporary China in which the cultural values collide, in which the old way of living is gradually giving in to the fast changes in the society in the past few decades. “It is wonderful that China changes so fast, it is wonderful for each one of us. I believe we have to look at life honestly and this is what I do in my movies”, says the artist in an interview for the “New Yorker” magazine. And really, his characters are charmingly wasting time in different sceneries of mountain peaks through villages near the sea and in the suburbs of Shanghai, they are melancholically seeking themselves and sadly defending their existential dilemmas.

Yang Fudong is born in 1971 in the family of a military officer and his touch with the art in his early childhood is almost none. “My childhood dream was to become a football star”, remembers the artist before the magazine W. When he is 9 years old a bad accident puts him for a very long time in bed and at that time he discovers the world of art. Today many people compare his movies to the ones of Truffaut, Godard and Fellini, however Yang Fudong remembers that even as a student in the elite Chinese academy of fine arts he didn’t have much access to their movies and he had only read books about them. All of us who have grown up in totalitarian countries with communist regimes understand very well what this means. “Before I saw “8 and ½” by Fellini I had already built the image in my head for my own movie “8 and1/2”, says the artist.

He graduates in 1995 majoring in art of painting. “Everything I knew before my study in the academy was the realism of the painting. A visiting German artist kept a seminar in modern art with a lot of video and photography and he opened my eyes”, tells the young Chinese artist. By the year 2000 he works in a company for video games to support himself. His talent as well s the boom of interest for modern Chinese art throughout the world allows him to focus entirely on his artistic career. “My father was always against my art. He thought I was wasting my life in a very wrong direction. However in the recent years when he saw that my art brings money he changed his mind”, admits Yang Fudong.

Today the artist has behind his back participation in the 50th and 52nd biennale in Venice, exhibitions in the Museums of modern art in Paris, Vienna and Amsterdam, in the Gallery Marian Goodman and in the Asian society in New York, in Tokyo and Shanghai.


Tags: Yang Fudong exhibition Athens Museum of modern art Nine muses
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