To Enjoy Chinese Contemporary Arts

March 5, 2013

By Winarto

Yesterday’s Me Tomorrow’s You, painted by Chen Ke

The painting in 6×2 meters size attracted me and other visitors directly when we came into the exhibition room in main building of National Gallery, Jakarta, last week. Not only the size that was so wide which made it stood out among tens paintings presented in the exhibition with title “Mirror and Shadow: Contemporary Art from China”. This painting is really interesting for me.

The painting “Yesterday’s Me, Tomorrow’s You” is worked by Chen Ke, a Chinese female contemporary artist whose the name has been known internationally recently.

The canvas surface of this painting is divided into three parts. On the left part there is a little girl writing on a plain wood desk with a table lamp that spouts soft light. On the background it is showed an old wall which its coat of paint has been peeled off. The shadow of the girl stick on the wall.

At above there is a calendar paper covering some electricity cables. There is also a wall clock and a bookshelf with some books, a photograph and a doll inside the rack.

On center part of the canvas it is drawn an opened wood window and a curtain waved by wind. Under the window there is a cupboard, a table, and  an old TV.

On the right surface of canvas we see the little girl is sleeping with a blanket on her bed. On the wall there is a warm clothe, some pictures and photographs that have been out of order.

Luminescence No 4, sculpture, by Jin Nv

This Chen Ke’s painting is not only realistic but also so poetic. Through this painting it seems that she wants to remember the time when she was a young girl in her loneliness. The loneliness theme often colors Chen Ke’s works. This represents the reality for a generation of Chinese people born into the one-child family structure.


Chen Ke was born in 1978 in Tongjiang, China. She  graduated from Sichuan Academy of  Fine Arts. Now she lives in Beijing.

Another Ke’s work displayed here is “A Book” that illustrates in comical the process of tree to become papers and books. Start from felling of trees,  the sending of woods to be manufactured become papers, the printing of newspapers and books, and finally the delivering the newspapers or books to customers. This is so simple illustration but contains great message. Use the papers not too much. Because in every a sheet of paper there is element of the death of   tree.

Beside Chen Ke, there are sixteen noted artists from China in this exhibition. They are painters and sculptors like as Bu Hua, Chen Yujun, Xu Maomao, and Jin Nv.

Xu Maomao with two paintings presents mystical narratives. His work “Without Any Anxiety” illustrates some creatures like as human with animal heads are watching a slice of human face  at one’s hand. While  other a few slices of human face  are scattered around.  His second painting, “The River of Evil” also shows strange creatures in a river. Maomao’s paintings make me remember old mystical stories that we can find in Asian traditional peoples.

Other interesting work presented by sculptor Jin Nv. A sculpture with mini size (53x80x40 cm) entitle “Luminescence No 4” shows a girl is lying down on a bed with a heavy blanket. Her toes appear and are taut. Her face expresses a fear and sadness. Born in Qinhuangdao, Hebei, China, in1984, Jin Nv is acknowledged as sculptor with simple but expressive works. Her works are inspirited by fairytale stories that she likes so much. The world of fairytales and princesses provide interesting narratives about love, beauty, sadness and happiness.

Exhibition “Mirror and Shadow: Contemporary Art from China”  is held in February 20 until March 11, 2013.


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