Graffiti confessions

Source: NeoCha (8/12/21)
Graffiti Confessions

“I’m innocent for loving country, but I am guilty of loving you.”

In today’s world, we’ve learned to close ourselves off. We’re always guarded, terrified of wearing our hearts on our sleeves. We’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s simply no place for emotional vulnerability in modern society. But unspoken thoughts can only remain muted for so long. Across China, candid confessions are appearing on the least likely of places—atop half-toppled walls and dilapidated structures. These off-the-cuff missives, though hardly pleasing in any aesthetic sense, are endearingly candor. They’re mysterious, leaving passersby who stumble across them intrigued about the life and fate of the vandal.

These spraypainted musings are the focus of Chinese Graffiti Hub, an Instagram and Weibo account that aggregates photos of amateur graffiti from across the Middle Kingdom. Chinese Graffiti Hub is operated by Yaya, who says he prefers his real name withheld. While studying art history overseas, he discovered the works of Li Xiangwei and Murong Yaming, both of whom frequently photographed Chinese graffiti along with other absurd observations. Upon coming across their photography, Yaya quickly became fascinated by Chinese graffiti. He believes the written word holds a certain power, but at the same time, graffiti as a medium is undeniably ephemeral. What others saw as acts of vandalism, he saw as art that deserved preservation. Continue reading

Artist Hung Liu dead at 73

Source: NYT (8/22/21)
Hung Liu, Artist Who Blended East and West, Is Dead at 73
An immigrant from China, she once said her goal was “to invent a way of allowing myself to practice as a Chinese artist outside of a Chinese culture.”
By Holland Cotter

The artist Hung Liu in her studio in front of her 2020 work “Rat Year 2020.” Her work incorporated photo-based images that combined the political and the personal. Credit…John Janca

Hung Liu, a Chinese American artist whose work merged past and present, East and West, earning her acclaim in her adopted country and censorship in the land of her birth, died on Aug. 7 at her home in Oakland, Calif. She was 73.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, Nancy Hoffman Gallery, which represents Ms. Liu in New York, said in a statement.

Her death came less than three weeks before the scheduled opening of a career survey, “Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands,” at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. She was the first Asian American woman to have a solo exhibition there.

“Five-thousand-year-old culture on my back; late-twentieth-century world in my face” is how Ms. Liu described her life-changing arrival in the United States from China in 1984, when she was 36 and already an accomplished painter. Her goal in America, she once said, was “to invent a way of allowing myself to practice as a Chinese artist outside of a Chinese culture.” Continue reading

Manhua as Magazine

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies no. 10 (Aug. 19, 2021)
Manhua as Magazine: The Case of Shanghai Sketch
By John A. Crespi

Figure 1: The front cover of Shanghai Sketch no. 10

What exactly are manhua, otherwise known as Chinese “cartoons”? The word manhua is easy to trace. It is a cognate of the Japanese word manga, though the two-character compound was used on occasion in China from the Song dynasty, in reference to a bird rather than pictures. The art of manhua, however, is harder to pin down. One can, as some researchers have done, devise narratives of satirical, cartoonish pictures that stretch back through millennia of Chinese history, albeit with many missing links. Easier to pin down is a specific year, 1925, when the term manhua was applied to Feng Zikai’s neo-traditionalist ink paintings printed in the new literature journal Literature Weekly. But manhua clearly did not emerge at a single point in time. Rather, they developed out of the diverse imagery found in China’s, and primarily Shanghai’s, illustrated press, from lithographed Dianshizhai Pictorial  in the 1880s on through myriad popular illustrated journals, magazines, and tabloids produced during the first several decades of the 20th century. Among those materials one can certainly find print images that more or less match current understanding of manhua as “comics” or “cartoons.” But what we call manhua today are not necessarily manhua as imagined by readers nearly a century ago. Put another way, when we apply the current notion of manhua to the past, we risk losing a historicized sense of what those images meant and did in their own time.

My book Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn argues that we can achieve a more historically informed perception of manhua by examining concrete instances of their symbiosis with the pictorial publications that originally hosted them. This short essay returns to that argument by walking through an example of what manhua meant and did in an entire issue of the eight-page weekly illustrated magazine Shanghai Sketch (1928-1930). What I hope to show is that in the case of Shanghai Sketchall the images—whether reproduced from photographs or line drawings—were, in a sense, manhua. And all of them, whatever the subject matter, can only be fully understood when viewed as elements of a carefully crafted visual journey through an issue of a magazine designed to appeal to and construct a certain kind of reader. Manhua, as we shall see, were not just discrete comics or cartoons; in the case of Shanghai Sketchmanhua referred to the practice of deploying images and text together in the construction of the pictorial magazine. Continue reading

Drawing from Life review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Alfreda Murck’s review of Drawing from Life: Sketching and Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China, by Christine I. Ho. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Jason McGrath, our visual media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton

Drawing from Life: Sketching and
Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China

By Christine I. Ho

Reviewed by Alfreda Murck

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2021)

Christine I. Ho. Drawing from Life: Sketching and Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2020. 308 pp. 83 color illustrations. ISBN 9780520309623 (cloth)

With the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, artists and arts administrators had the challenge of reworking both the methods and the content of art making. Their goal was to create a modern form of art appropriate for the new socialist China. How could artists be made cultural workers for the promotion of socialism? Could attitudes be molded so that art could serve the new socialist state?

Christine I. Ho provides an account of the seventeen-year effort, from 1949 to the eve of the Cultural Revolution, to forge a socialist-realist style of drawing and painting. The book is organized in seven chapters divided into two parts, plus an introduction and epilogue.

The book’s main theme is the importance of “mass sketching” that took teachers and students out of the art academies to record the common people, the masses. In Chinese Communist rhetoric, “mass” or “the masses” (群众) refers to the people—who were, at least in theory, the arbiters of all policy. Mao Zedong insisted that the Communist Party had to rely on the masses for its authority and had to learn from them. As a way to learn from peasants and workers, mass sketching was an important tool of political education. It transformed how painting was created and how China was pictured. Continue reading

Wayfaring: Photography in 1970s-80s Taiwan

Journeys of self and society at the end of martial law
Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU
Curated by Dr Shuxia Chen and Dr Olivier Krischer

As Taiwanese society was coming to terms with a new political reality in the 1970s and 1980s, many artists and intellectuals addressed issues of locality, history and cultural identity. Despite the pressure on civil society, Taiwan’s visual culture flourished, with photography playing a key role as a visual medium that intersected many creative practices and platforms. Pioneering photographers produced groundbreaking works across these decades, from experimental art to photojournalism and much in between.

The exhibition adopts the concept of ‘wayfaring’ from the phrase ‘找路’, used by the seminal figure Chang Chao-Tang 張照堂 to discuss his work in these decades. Here, the term lyrically evokes both the actual journeys that artists undertook, searching for the real-life experiences and sentiments of their subjects, as well as their personal, introspective searches for a way forward, a new path, through creative experimentation with the photographic medium.

Drawn from the collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, with some additional works loaned directly from the artists, this broad selection of photographs reflects the diversity and shifting experiences of Taiwanese society and culture at this pivotal time. Wayfaring features 35 still images by 12 artists, including Chang Chao-Tang 張照堂, Chien Yun-Ping 簡永彬, Chuang Ling 莊靈, Ho Ching-Tai 何經泰, Hou Tsung-Hui 侯聰慧, Hsieh Chun-Te 謝春德, Hsieh San-Tai 謝三泰, Juan I-Jong 阮義忠, Kao Chung-Li 高重黎, Lien Hui-Ling 連慧玲, Wang Hsin 王信, Yeh Ching-Fang 葉清芳.

Exhibition info:…/wayfaring-photography-1970s-80s… Continue reading

“Maple” comic book adaptation

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Lena Henningsen and Joschua Seiler’s translation of “Maple” (枫), a comic book (连环画) adapation of the 1979 “scar” short story by Zheng Yi 郑义. The translation, with illustrations, appears here: You’ll also find there a link to Lena Henningsen’s introduction to the text.


Kirk Denton

Chen Yanqiao exhibit

Source: China Daily (6/28/21)
Woodcuts show a review of a passionate age
By Lin Qi |

Lu Xun and Maxim Gorky, by Chen Yanqiao. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Lu Xun the noted writer and scholar started the New Woodcut Movement in the 1930s, encouraging young artists to use the form as a tool to give the masses a greater sense of knowledge, culture and revolutionary ideas. Among those devoted followers, Chen Yanqiao was a pioneer with dozens of excellent works which spoke on the plight of people and the fight for independence and revival.

Call to Arms, an exhibition at Liu Haisu Art Museum, until July 18, reviews Chen’s career utilizing woodcut engraving to address his concerns for the people and nation. Chen’s works provide a sample of the revolution of modern Chinese art, marked by a humanistic spirit.

As Chen once said: “An artist must understand history and people. He must be a heroic spokesperson for people.” Continue reading

Rain in Plural . . . and Beyond

Film: Rain in Plural . . . and Beyond
Poetry, Translations, Inkwork, and Guzheng Harp Music with Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination

From the Institute webpage and additional information:

One of the rare few English-language poets of our present times working across genres and three or more languages and cultures, Fiona Sze-Lorrain presents us poems from her latest collection Rain in Plural (Princeton University Press, 2020), and shares her ongoing processes of translation, music, and artmaking that are in parallel to her writing. In this film, she also reads bilingual poems and translations of Chinese contemporary poets Yin Lichuan and Ye Lijun, American poet Mark Strand, as well as performs a classical piece High Moon on the guzheng.

Digital art or visual propaganda

Source: What’s on Weibo (6/19/21)
Digital Art or Visual Propaganda? China’s New Wave of Online Political Satire
Political, patriotic art mocking Western leaders is welcomed by social media users and propagated by Chinese officials.
By Manya Koetse

Image by What’s on Weibo, highlighting various digital artworks by @五合麒麟, @半桶老阿汤.

A specific genre of political satire has been gaining popularity on Chinese social media lately, with some images even making international headlines. While political satire mocking Chinese authorities is generally soon taken offline, these online works are brought to the limelight by Chinese official channels. Is it grassroots digital art? Or is it official visual propaganda?

When the parody image ‘The Last G7’ went viral on Chinese social media in June of 2021, it made international headlines for insulting the G7 summit, the West and Christianity, ridiculing ‘double-faced’ Australia, bashing Japan over Fukushima water, and offending India’s COVID19 situation. There was enough satirical symbolism and detail in the image to offend virtually any country that was -implicitly- portrayed in it.

Some media headers suggested the image was created by Chinese state media, others said it was done by ‘Chinese trolls’ or Chinese authorities.

The image was actually created by a Chinese computer graphics illustrator from Beijing who is active on social media, where he also sells his digital art online.

Online political satire in China has been around since the early start of social media in China and is often seen as a form of online activism. In media articles and academic literature focused on online political satire in China, the phenomenon is often discussed within the framework of censorship and dissidence, as a practice of resistance against Chinese authorities. Political satire can exist in many forms, from funny word jokes to catchy songs, from viral gifs to sophisticated cartoons. . . . [continue reading on the What’s on Weibo site]

ACAS Inaugural Conference rescreening

ACAS Inaugural Conference Rescreening Schedule
9am & 4pm, July 12-August 4, 2021, Hong Kong time
Inaugural Conference 2020Program

The Inaugural Conference of the Association for Chinese Animation Studies was originally held online between March 1 and May 12, 2021 (Hong Kong time). We had 70 speakers and 553 public registrants from 32 countries and regions. Here is the trailer for the conference:

The rescreening will take place between July 12 and August 4, 2021 (Hong Kong time). Each panel will be rescreened at two different time slots on that day: 9am-12noon and 16:00pm-19:00pm, Hong Kong time. Each time slot will have a designated Zoom ID. Please use the same Zoom ID at the designated time slot for all panels.

09:00am Session:

Meeting ID: 942 3289 8076

Passcode: IAS21acas Continue reading

Gallery removes exhibit ranking women ‘prettiest to ugliest’

Source: BBC News (6/18/21)
Shanghai gallery removes exhibit ranking women ‘prettiest to ugliest’

Images of women in the Uglier and Uglier artwork by Song Ta

The anonymous women were numbered according to how attractive the artist Song Ta found them. Copyright Song Ta

An art gallery in the Chinese city of Shanghai has apologised for promoting an exhibit that ranked images of women from “prettiest to ugliest”.

The video artwork “Uglier and Uglier”, by male artist Song Ta, featured about 5,000 images and videos of women in real life on a university campus. The artist then ranked them according to how attractive he found them.

After an outcry on social media, the OCAT Shanghai gallery said it had removed the exhibit.

“After receiving criticism, we re-evaluated the content of this artwork and the artist’s explanation, we found it disrespected women, and the way it was shot has copyright infringement issues,” the museum said on China’s Weibo social media platform. Continue reading

History of Chinese animation (1)

The animation industry is always in crisis in China. Every so often an article  appears bemoaning the state of Chinese animation (this one also looks like a promotion for a new department– another important factor in Chinese animation, educational institutions promoting media programs meant to feed the domestic animation industry). The message is generally the same. Once upon a time there was a Golden Age, now things are more dispersed, audiences in China are critical of domestic animation, and the movie isn’t a blockbuster like a film by Disney or Studio Ghibli.

The Golden Age is often represented by Havoc in Heaven aka Uproar in Heaven: “[w]ith its stunning visuals and beautiful music inspired by Peking Opera, [the film] received numerous awards, as well as widespread domestic and international recognition.”

Sure. Once the country opened up and sent the film abroad in the late 1970s and viewers could watch the film abroad and in China, everyone loved Uproar, until they kept playing it on TV over and over and even the kids got sick of it. Uproar was produced in two parts in 1961 & 1964 (Olga Bobrowska* does an excellent reading of the films as such). The first part was well received, the second part not so much. Might have had something to do with the Red Guards appropriating the public domain Monkey King for their own revolutionary activities.

Can animators in China learn anything from Uproar, DIsney, and Studio Ghibli? Will the most recent animation studio/institution create that ever illusive recipe to become the next global blockbuster?

It’s the story, stupid.

Sean Macdonald <>

*See Olga Bobrowska, “Maoist Remoulding of the Legend of Monkey King, or Analyzing Ideological Implications of Wan Laiming’s Havoc in Heaven,” in Twisted Dreams of History, V4 Perspective on Propaganda, Ideology, and Animation, Kraków: Wydawnictwa AGH (AGH University of Science and Technology Press, 2019): 83-104.

History of Chinese animation

Source: SupChina (6/2/21)
The history of Chinese animation, from groundbreaking ‘Havoc in Heaven’ to crappy-looking ‘Kung Fu Mulan’
By Jiayun Feng

Havoc in Heaven

Nearly 60 years after the release of “Havoc in Heaven,” the Chinese animation industry is now struggling to generate revenues at home while trying to expand its presence in the global marketplace. What went wrong? This article is brought to you by Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, a leading international joint venture university based in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China.

When the lights went down for the first screenings of Princess Iron Fan 铁扇公主 across war-torn China in 1941, audiences were merely eager to see how the country’s first full-length animated feature had turned out. But the film proved to be nothing short of spectacular, heralding the start of a golden era for Chinese animation and laying the groundwork for what would eventually become Havoc in Heaven 大闹天宫 (also translated as Uproar in Heaven), an indisputable classic that has influenced a generation of filmmakers and animators, both in China and overseas.

But this golden age didn’t last. Nearly 60 years after the release of Havoc in Heaven, the Chinese animation industry is now struggling to generate revenues at home while trying to expand its presence in the global marketplace. To understand the current challenges facing Chinese animators, it is critical to recognize the history of how a once-prosperous industry fell behind its American, European, and Japanese counterparts and strived to regain its footing with radical adjustments.

The Wan brothers: Purveyors of early animation

To talk about the beginnings of Chinese animation is to talk about the life stories of the Wan brothers — Chaochen 超塵, Dihuan 滌寰, Guchan 古蟾, and Laiming 籁鸣. Growing up in a family with no artistic background — their father was a businessman in Nanjing and their mother was a stay-at-home mother — the four brothers were mad about painting and shadow puppetry when they were boys, with American cartoon series like Popeye the Sailor Man and Betty Boop being the backdrop of their childhood. Continue reading

Expansive thinking sustains HK’s galleries

Source: NYT (5/21/21)
Expansive Thinking Sustains Hong Kong’s Independent Galleries
These experimental art spaces are offering mentorship programs, residencies and even health and dental insurance.
By Andrew Russeth

The exhibition space Précédée, on a busy stretch of the Yau Ma Tei neighborhood in Hong Kong .Credit…Précédée

One recent afternoon, the curator Cosmin Costinas was discussing the challenging past year from Para Site, the nonprofit gallery he leads on the 22nd floor of a building in the Quarry Point area of Hong Kong.

“When everything that we took for granted was upended,” he said in a video interview, his team asked: “Why should we survive as an institution? What are art institutions for in the first place?”

They thought about how Para Site could respond directly to the urgent moment. For art organizations “to really justify their presence,” said Mr. Costinas, the gallery’s curator and executive director, “they need to be embedded in the community.” Continue reading

Ancient relief sculpture brought alive

Source: China Daily (4/29/21)
Relief sculpture brought alive after millennium

Actors hold live performance presenting the image of a relief sculpture dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan province, on April 28, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Carved in Binyangzhong Cave, an imperial cave excavated in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), the relief sculpture Emperor and Empress Pay Respect for Buddha is a national treasure of great historical and cultural values.In the 1930s, the sculpture was stolen and taken abroad in pieces. “We hope to resurrect this work through many forms, and this live-action performance is one of them. It took nearly three months to prepare,” Dan Gao, researcher of Longmen Grottoes Research Institute, said.

In order to restore the images on the relief, the research team collected literature and pictures, and studied the character’s makeup and hair, costumes, props and movements one by one.

Apart from the actors for the emperor and empress, most of the 40-plus cast members are young people born after 2000. Continue reading