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Rockbund Art Museum presents Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan. A Potent Force

Rockbund Art Museum presents Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan. A Potent Force on view January 26–March 31, 2013.

A Potent Force brings together the work of two strongly individual Chinese artists, Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan. Duan Jianyu was born in 1970; Hu Xiaoyuan in 1977. They graduated in 1995 from the oil painting department of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and in 2002 from the design department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, respectively. Duan Jianyu lives and works in Guangzhou; Hu Xiaoyuan in Beijing.

As a title, the phrase A Potent Force was conceived to intone the lyrical, introspective, and sentient intellectual prowess that characterises these two subtle plays with painting (Duan Jianyu) and conceptual video and installation (Hu Xiaoyuan). It further references the nature of both artists’ analysis of the world as they experience it.

As revealed by their respective dates of birth, there is but eight years of difference in age between these two artists but, in light of that period of China’s modern history, they were born into two different eras: in 1970, when Duan Jianyu was born, the Cultural Revolution was at its height, the country in a state of chaos. In 1977, when Hu Xiaoyuan was born, the Cultural Revolution was over. By the 1990s, Guangzhou, where Duan Jianyu remained to teach following her graduation, had became one of China’s leading industrial hubs; Beijing, where Hu Xiaoyuan first settled as a student in 1998, was poised to become a hotbed of consumerism. Ever since 2001, China’s economic development has gained significant momentum, whilst its culture and art were to embrace a new commercialised era. There is, thus, the force of a socio-cultural shift in the margin of age that separates them that underscored the atmosphere in which they passed their formative years. To a great extent, this aura is embodied in the topics they explore as well as the mediums chosen to express these.

For both artists, their approach to art is primarily emotive rather than directly cerebral. Clearly at an early point in their careers Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan made aesthetic choices which resulted in these two entirely unrelated approaches to expression: two distinct languages, each with a vocabulary tailored to what they have to say. If these two artists have anything in common—beyond their gender which, to some degree today, still affects how society views them as (women) artists, and as a result, what the art world expects from them—it is that their style results from an amalgam of their respective life experiences, distilled through the incidental features of their personal background and the environs in which they grew up.

Rockbund Art Museum
No.20 Huqiu Road, Shanghai, China

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