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He Jian is notable for his distinctive amalgamation of ancient and contemporary Chinese culture. Rather than painting in oil like most of his contemporaries, he uses rice paper, dry pigment, and binder as his media. He strategically layers and manipulates his paints to assume the timeworn quality of the 14th century Yuan Dynasty frescoes at the Yong Le Temple in Shanxi Province. He Jian uses this distinctive new-old, antiquated style to present a wide range of quotidian subject matter. Although many of his works portray figural groups engaged in activities characteristic of modern Chinese life, in this series He Jian directs his focus towards utilitarian objects that signaled China’s shift towards a consumer culture.

In this painting, He Jian takes the most renowned brand of Chinese grain liquor, Wuliangye, as his subject. Made from a five-crop blend (broomcorn, rice, glutinous rice, wheat, and corn), Wuliangye is known within every household in China but not without, where the stiff liquor has yet to win over drinkers. The liquor in He Jian's painting is depicted with a nostalgic touch, and Wuliangye is a heritage brand as much a part of China's lived history as anything in history books.

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  • Wu Liang Ye (Chinese Wine)
  • He Jian (b. 1978) was born in Guang Yuan, Sichuan province, and graduated from oil painting department of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. His distinctive style is based on the frescoes of Yongle temple in Shanxi province. In the "Mass Consumption" series, begun in 1999, He Jian utilizes traditional modeling methods, particularly those of the hands and feet depicted in those centuries-old frescoes, to create a sharp satire of modern life. He Jian's figures smoke, gamble, drink, and sing at karaoke parlors in vulgar displays of contemporary wealth and excess, but do so in the visual vernacular of ancient China, their stylized bodies instantly recognizable to students of traditional Chinese art history.

    For his witty visual combination of ancient and contemporary, He Jian graduated with distinction, and continued on as a lecturer in the oil painting department of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. Since graduating, He Jian has received increasing attention from the international art world, participating in many shows in China and abroad, as well as signing with a well-known gallery. Because his practice and education have been so firmly rooted in Sichuan, he is frequently exhibited with his Sichuan-based contemporaries, together considered the new face of the Sichuan school of painting.

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    HE Jian 何剑
The scene is a gruesome one; a vicious creature with demonic red eyes and sharp claws eagerly laps at a gradually spreading pool of blood. Our gaze follows the trail of blood to the mangled corpse of a poor, defenseless carrot. Breathing a sigh of relief, the viewer quickly realizes that what was initially mistaken for blood is merely carrot juice and the bloodthirsty beast is just an albino bunny innocently enjoying its favorite snack. This mischievous visual duplicity typifies Lili's style and tiptoes playfully on the edge between lighthearted humor and foreboding dread. Her simultaneously cute and creepy animal subjects leave us questioning the difference and relationship between these two extremes.

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  • Yummy
  • Lili (b. 1982) was born in Chongqing, Sichuan, and graduated from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 2004. She can be characterized as part of the “Cartoon Generation” of Chinese artists, a group that emerged in Southern China during the latter half of the 1990s. Her subjects are seemingly cute, loveable animals such as teddy bears, bunnies, and birds, however their violent and grotesque actions imbue the work with a menacing air. The dark, ominous tone lurking beneath the surface of her supposedly innocent and playful cartoon depictions create a scene ripe with tension. The flat, simplified style of line drawing and muted color palette offer a stark contrast to the complex psychological drama subtly unfolding within the composition, amplifying the elements of suspense and uncertainty. Her works are reminiscent of artist Yoshimoto Nara (b. 1959), known for his Japanese Pop art era depictions of bleary-eyed, bobble head cartoon children in pastel hues. At first appearing merely grouchy after being awoken from a nap, upon further consideration, the dangerous weapons clutched in their tiny fists and dour expressions spread across their oversized faces are decidedly seething with loathing and aggression. Since 2004 Lili’s work has been exhibited in various spaces around mainland China, as well as further afield in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Brazil, and the United States.

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    LI Li 李丽