“Amongst the sculptors at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, Tang Yong was the first to appropriate cartoon images and spray-paint techniques into his work. Later, due to reasons involving the art market and media, a bunch of other people followed suit, resulting in a shambolic deluge of cartoon symbols. However, this was not Tang Yong’s fault. Yet, being in such an environment, Tang Yong began seriously contemplating – what on earth does the life of men as a physical entity entail in a trendy and garish lifestyle? The artist does not want to become a captive of popular images in depicting the superficial, which is a matter of life and death for an artist with a spiritual aspiration.

His creative inspiration for his new work stems from the ubiquitous condom, which is a special object in China. In a natural-resource-scarce space populated by 1.3 billion people, top and foremost would be birth control. Even though the use of condom deprives the physical union of male and female of its naturalness and renders it artificial, in a modern setup, abreaction and loss, survival and death, self and objects have all become symbolic: we can no longer find any meaning while we consume our bodies and life. In other words, consumption in life and the consumer lifestyle have become weird to human existence; not only have they become speechless in the face of death, they have become dull in the face of life. In a consumer age, it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to make personal choices in life. No wonder the figures at the hands of Tang Yong always appear to be startled, with their eyes and mouths widely open. Even the piled skeletons issue exclamation and awe. The artist does not tackle any philosophical questions; he can only present the dilemma of survival through his artistic perception, can only through his own art language, i.e. his way of sculpting, experience the spiritual clash.

The power of Tang Yong’s sculptures resides in the contrast between eroticism and philosophical thinking, exaggeration and meditation, smoothness and poignancy, novelty and complication, as well as amusement and bewilderment. He has created his own erotic aesthetic yet does not let the icon-and-cartoon-like objects to take the upper hand or become matter of fact. Instead, he has always placed them in an opposing relationship that is heterogeneous and varied. The enlightenment that Tang’s works give us is that living under the current cultural environment, we should not forget the attention art gives to people and to the meaning of life, when we utilize the cultural resources that is currently available.

Certainly, this attention is different from the overly heroic existential awareness in modernism. We can only express confusion in confusion, reveal questions inside questions, and break free from habitual consciousness and collective cultural privileges. Only then can art become proof of private identity and personal existence.

Just because of that reason, when Tang Yong asked me to give his exhibition a title, I used a four-lettered Chinese name, in the fashion of kung fu film titles, sheng si you guan or Between Life and Death. Imbedded in this title is a little cartoon-like exaggeration and a little heroic clash. Tang Yong’s sculpture is indeed very different from that of the so-called New Cartoon Generation, just as his age is between that of these two generations. Seeing these vigorous little figures emerging from their shackles, I often wonder when the young artists at Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts can free themselves from the lure of Huang Jue Ping’s “Da Fen Village”, and create works that are characteristic of contemporary aesthetics and spiritual pursuit.

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Between Life & Death

Between Life & Death


Source: Evil Monito