Gossip from Confucius City 4

Huang Jing Yuan


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Object Detail

acrylic on paper
55 x 55 cm
Gossip from Confucius City (2011), a conceptual project for which she created a fictitious institute and its museum, was inspired by the state-sponsored Confucius Institute, an arm of Chinese soft power that aims to spread Chinese language and culture across the world. Huang Jing Yuan created a series of paintings that resemble black and white photographs, critiquing the over-blown images produced by the apparatus of state propaganda. Starting with small, hand-made collages, she layered cut out figures from diverse sources to create surreal, theatrical pictures in which strange characters act out ambiguous narratives. There is a sense of rupture and unease. Foregrounds are disassociated from backgrounds, as if two entirely disconnected events have been slammed together by some unexpected slippage in the space-time continuum.

Using tiny brushes and a monochrome palette Huang painstakingly copied her collages in a very small format with magnified detail and extreme realism. This deliberate process of distancing, in hand-made versions of works that are themselves already copies, mimics the ways images are filtered, manipulated, reproduced, shared and infinitely recombined in an image-saturated world. Each fictional image appears hyper-real, like a photograph from a fantastical parallel universe. Their satirical intent is emphasised by elaborately carved black frames, a reference to the interior decoration excesses of China’s rich and powerful new elites.

Gossip from Confucius City 4 is divided sharply into foreground and background, heightening its artificiality. A row of small children, light-haired and dressed in baggy pants, sneakers and hooded jackets, looks down on a sharply foreshortened and crowded city scene far below. A circular building, its balconies advertising beer and coffee, recalls Bruegel once again — the Tower of Babel, a metaphor for a polyglot globalised world. Other works in the series mix eastern and western archetypes in a postcolonial plundering of source imagery; it is contemporary China as if represented by Cecil B. DeMille in a Hollywood extravaganza.
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