This is a Book

Shen Liang


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oil on canvas and comic books
paintings x 12, each 80 x 100 cm
books x 12, each approximately 8 x 10 cm
Taking 12 comic books (lianhuanhua) redolent of the artist’s childhood in the immediate aftermath of the Cultural Revolution – and some earlier books published in the 1960s that he collected – Shen Liang has reproduced their covers, featuring revolutionary heroes, soldiers and the good socialist role models that children were supposed to emulate, in lurid colour and heavy impasto paint. More than merely reproducing their covers though, this exercise in nostalgia includes the rude and scatological scrawls and graffiti that Shen and his classmates secretly added to the covers of these precious books. A demure, pigtailed Young Pioneer schoolgirl has breasts, pubic hair and see-through underpants scribbled over her uniform with the slogan ‘Small Underpants’; a brave soldier has the phrase ‘you are died’ added as a contemptuous and rebellious aside, and another red flag wielding Red Guard with the label ‘Central Academy of Fine Arts’ on his breast and graffiti reading ‘Fucking Idiot’ beside him, appears to be projectile vomiting. The covers are painted to look tattered and torn as if they’ve been pored over by many readers eager to enter these narratives of heroism and villainy. Shen Liang began his ‘graffiti’ series of paintings in 2004, feeling nostalgic for a time before globalisation and market forces changed Chinese culture. He told art writer Danielle Shang that they were produced very spontaneously: “It is like the feeling of delight and ease we used to have as little kids after having a round of splashing and doodling.”
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