Ling Jian was born in the Shandong Province of China in 1963. He graduated from the Qinghua University Art College and has exhibited his work in Germany, Bangkok, Amsterdam, and Italy.
Ling Jian’s art is, thus, not Westernized Chinese art (or, for that matter, Orientalized western art), but a carefully negotiated hybridization calibrated to the artist’s expressive concerns.
That, on one level, could describe any credible art produced outside a vacuum.
But Ling’s fusion of means is itself a “statement.” It is a display of multiple cultural sources – he has worked outside as well as inside China for over twenty years, one of the new Chinese artists directly exposed to Western sources the longest – and is, perhaps resultingly, a critique of social conditions across cultural divides.
One of the points Ling makes, in fact, is that these divides are shrinking, that not only do universal themes pertain in art, but now universal styles and methods pertain as well. What speaks to Chinese circumstances not only speaks to Westerners about those circumstances, but speaks to Western conditions as well. Ling’s paintings, it turns out, are not windows onto a distant civilization, but mirrors of the global village into which the distance has been collapsing.
No question but that Ling Jian regards his art as a presentation of symptoms.
His recent concentration on a single subjective range – young, attractive women of an Asian cast – may be pitched in order to exploit scopic interest, even desire (“I attempt to multiply the power of temptation by displaying it on my canvases,” he has written); but it has been chosen, and is varied, in order to reflect social circumstances, circumstances that pertain within China and without. “The cold skin of the lady in my painting symbolizes a high degree of spiritual indifference and melancholy that come about when ideals have vanished,” Ling observes.
Ling Jian’s paintings are reports about the system from inside the system to others inside the system.
The system does not suppress them, it co-opts them, casting them as just so much more New Chinese Art. But Ling’s bicontinental cultural experience broadens and complicates his message, as his newbrow-like visual strategies demonstrate. His reports come from multiple vantages. His dissonance has a difference.
“Temptation is the drive for survival. People are always faced with a variety of irresistible temptations-realistic, promotional, financial, and sexual in nature.
I have been searching for this aspect of reality and I attempt to multiply the power of temptation by displaying it on my canvases.
The cold skin of the lady in my painting symbolises a high degree of spiritual indifference and melancholy that come about when ideals have vanished; the fading red lines manifest the numbness felt towards reality, and how it disappears into memories and dwindling reminiscences of episodes that were once living. Various feeling fill up both the canvases, and my life.
Through neo-realism, what I hope to infuse into these notions, is a more profound meaning-a self-contradiction of sorts and significantly, the conflict between culture and society.
People often say that I paint”beautiful women”only. But what do they mean by that? If we take a chronological look at the history and evolution of humanity, women are very often the symbol of an era. By taking a closer look at the changes in women and how they are represented, various changes can be suggested about the human race. By the same token,women’s attire, decorum,and the manner that they are advertised in pictures aptly represents Shanghai in the 1920s, the Renaissance in Europe, and even present day global developments that we have come to understand in terms of politics, economics, and culture through these respective periods-women are the manifestation of myriad personalities and lifestyles in a particular climate. This is why it can be said that women take the lead in changing the times. These “beautiful women”in my paintings, are simply spiritual representations of the Chinese and their new found complacency towards neo-nationalism, as well as towards their values and aesthetic perspectives.
Often I am alone,and during this time I think that producing art is like hunting.
This is because it requires a spirit of adventure to produce an artwork, and it is a turbulent process of unforeseen and unknown outcomes.
It is this unknown process that often tempts and bewilders. Artists art like hunters-they wait, they search, and they have reactions so quick that they will not overlook anything no matter how insignificant; in the end, they kill the prey. Through this process, the perception of smelling, hearing, sensing, dying and living, becomes a transient permanence that exists only from the beginning to the end. This is why artists need to have a saintly temperament of noble innocence as well as possessing devilish magic and frantic enchantment.
They have to have a genuine ability to experience living itself whilst maintaining a broad and tolerant mind.
I very clearly know what I have to do -to surpass or to destroy the self.”
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