Paintings by Chinese Neo-realist Mao Yan, known for his poetic and psychologically revealing portraits.
Mao Yan (b.1968, Hunan Province, China) is considered as one of China’s outstanding contemporary portrait artists. Under his father’s influence, Mao Yan began studying painting at an early age. By the time he was a teenager he had already mastered advanced techniques, and his talent was recognized even before he was admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts. In 1991, after graduating from the Oil Painting Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Mao Yan began teaching at Nanjing University of the Arts, where he began to delve into portraiture. In his article Explorations in Realism, renowned art critic Li Xianting named Mao Yan as the representative of Chinese Neo-realism, stating that his works depict the "portraits of a generation whose emotions are gradually disappearing."
Mao Yan 2013.05.11 (Sat.) – 2013.06.22 (Sat.) Pace Beijing, 798 Art District No.2 Jiu Xian Qiao Rd. Chaoyang District, Beijing Opening: Saturday, May 11, 2013, 4‐6 pm As a preliminary show of Art Basel Hong Kong, Pace Beijing is presenting the solo exhibition of China’s most influential portrait artist, Mao Yan. This exhibition is also the first exhibition of Mao Yan since his representation by Pace Beijing. Mao Yan is well known by his portrait art. His artworks reveal the momentary glory of peace and attract audience into his artworks through the very straight expression without any metaphor. Mao Yan insists the spiritual dominance in his paintings and depicts the same object though years, in which he has controlled the arbitrary sorrows and the flow of emotions and showed the tension of strokes in a slow but calming way. Through the unique image he created and the motion he captured, Mao Yan expresses the light atmosphere that is attracted by a certain moment in memory and weakens the characteristics of a certain figure. Therefore he focuses solely on the language of art and shows the theme that is both magnificent and decadent. We could say that the art of Mao Yao has represented the whole face of an era that is remote but real. In Mao Yan’s portrait, the feature of time on a figure’s appearance has been removed, and only the common spirit of human beings is still maintained. The grey tone shows his experience and observation over the long and dim modern history. Mao Yan chooses an individual as his standpoint and his personal opinion as the foundation, and he dims any relations with his personal symbol and gets rid of subjective emotional judgment to avoid any symbolic or metaphoric meanings. Mao Yan depicts the same figure over years. Such behavior is based on the opposite of his own spiritual power. Yet in his non‐sketching creation process, he not only removes the steadiness and flatness of photographs, but also revert the reality of the scene and the vividness of the material, which expresses his personal pursuit to the figure. Mao Yan keeps his pursuit to spirit and the vague memory, embeds his personal feelings into the tone of era, and by making use of his talent and feelings, he presents the dim light of human soul and shows a unique figure that is calm and peaceful. Other than new works from the series of Thomas, which the artist has been continuing since late 1990s, the first‐time large scale painting of female body will be another focus of this solo exhibition. Faerie on the Chair and The Plump Nude show the rare female figure in portrait paintings. In these two paintings, Mao Yan depicts and compares the flirting slim model in the chair and the plump lady who curls up at the exact same place. In addition, Mao Yan will present artworks about animal heads which are unorthodox. For example, Fish Head for Goya is a tribute to the Spanish romantic master Goya, who has a huge influence on Mao Yan. We can look forward to seeing Mao Yan’s technique on controlling the painting’s atmosphere and the rare talent he possesses again in this solo exhibition at Pace Beijing. www.pacegallery.com Biography Mao Yan (b.1968, Hunan Province, China) is considered as one of China’s outstanding contemporary portrait artists. Under his father’s influence, Mao Yan began studying painting at an early age. By the time he was a teenager he had already mastered advanced techniques, and his talent was recognized even before he was admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts. In 1991, after graduating from the Oil Painting Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Mao Yan began teaching at Nanjing University of the Arts, where he began to delve into portraiture. In his article Explorations in Realism, renowned art critic Li Xianting stated Mao Yan’s works depict the “portraits of a generation whose emotions are gradually disappearing”. Gray tones, delicate molding, and mottled brushstrokes allow Mao Yan’s works to retain all detail and vitality, whether displayed under natural or gallery lighting. Around 1995, Mao Yan’s paintings began to move from the standards of conventional portraiture toward smaller, quieter pieces. His impudent, flaming colors and warm browns gradually became sober – infiltrated by gray, ashen tones that concealed the paintings foundations. At the end of the 1990s, Mao Yan began using Thomas, an exchange student from Luxembourg, as a model, spending ten years on one portrait. The series continues to this day, but the artist also continues to pursue a more dynamic path. He gains a sense of inherent classicism and security from using familiar symbols, yet only with unceasing concentration and focus can a painter’s style be used as a tool to give form to abstract reflection, and that still requiring a callous inhibition of ever‐present, hovering uncertainty. In his recent works, Mao Yan focus on the experiment of depicting female portrait and still life, rendering his homage to Romanticism masters such as Goya and Delacroix. The meaning in Mao Yan’s endeavors does not lie in the idea of “portraits”. Rather, his works are “paintings of portraits” – borrowing the contour and movement of a character in order¬ to substantialize outline, color, and composition. It is within the framework of realism that such deep, subtle inquiries into human mentality can be made. In the end, a simple painting is no more than another way of viewing the world; the significance of Mao Yan’s works is founded precisely in this point, as it has not inherited the static and noise of the generation. Mao Yan’s work has been displayed in large‐scale exhibitions both at home and abroad, including Mao Yan at Pace Beijing (2013), Face to Face: Portraits and Interiors‐ Chinese Dutch Painting Exhibition at Today Art Museum, Beijing (2013), 30 Years of Chinese Contemporary Art at the Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai (2010), Longing for More; Mao Yan Solo Exhibition at the Shanghai Art Museum (2009), China: Construction and Deconstruction at the National Gallery of St. Paul, Brazil (2008), Todays’ China at Beivue Museum in Brussels (2008), and Paris: Beijing at Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris (2008). For further information, please contact with Sylvie Tiao firstname.lastname@example.org /+86 10 5978.9781.#811