A Picture: Fang Shaohua
Location：Fine Arts Literature Art Center
Artistic Director：Liu Ming
A Picture: Fang Shaohua solo exhibition, curated by Du Xiyun, was launched in Fine Arts Literature Art Center on September 3, 2022, displaying the artist's large-scale work "Expansion of Ingres' The Turkish Bath", oil paintings, paper works and some manuscripts.
Continuing the Dream in the Far East: Fang Shao Hua’s Expansion of The Turkish Bath
In the late 18th century Europe, there was a surge of keen interest in the customs of the East (the Middle East). In particular, the exotic cultures, picturesque landscapes, romanticism, and adventures fascinated artists and writers. Neoclassical painter Ingres was infected with this Oriental fashion as well. Although he had never visited the Middle East, inspired by Letters from the Orient by the wife of British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, he painted The Turkish Bath during the years 1852-1859. Having complete this painting crowded by over 20 attractive females, he added “at age 82” beside his signature.
In the early 21st century, China flourished in all aspects after integrating into economic globalization, which attracted worldwide attention. Fang Shaohua, who was born in 1962, continued Ingres’ Orientalist erotic dream on a canvas of 6m by 1.5m, a project which lasted a year at his age of 49 in Guangzhou, a cosmopolitan in southern China, and which he called “Expansion of The Turkish Bath”.
Different from Ingres, who was based in France and painted an imagined Turkey (Middle East)， Fang painted China (the Far East) in which he lives, thereby sharing the feeling with other Chinese residents that the history, customs, and ethos of this land are authentic and approachable. Especially after the 1960s till now, he witnessed and personally experienced the drastically changed and the unchanged in this era; therefore, he occasionally and spontaneously makes comparisons between then and now, between China and the West. His artistic talent and years of painting practice have been motivating him to transform his thoughts into vivid, specific representations.
After Ingres’ The Turkish Bath is expanded, it continues with Chinese traditional gardens and contemporary style beaches. Against the background of lotus, mudans, willows, palm trees, coconut trees, waterfalls, babbling springs, pavilions, and peculiarly shaped rocks, over 30 beautiful Chinese and Western nudes, graceful and lively, are shown all over the canvas, accompanied by red-crowned cranes, pandas, leopards, and other animals. Fang’s spatial framework, strong foundation in realistic representations, taste of color, brushstrokes with personalized style, as well as the attitudes and emotions embodied by these elements, takes up the line of Ingres, who lived more than a hundred years from now, while manifesting a highly distinctive personality of his own.
Evidently, it can be concluded after appreciation that Fang Shaohua ’s Expansion of The Turkish Bath is a gorgeous erotic dream of a male painter that faces up to desire and disregards public gaze, and a metaphoric wonder which Chinese intellectuals have mixed feelings about and cannot describe with words. It is private and public at the same time: the recognition, publicity, and abuse of desire is the private matter that this Golden Age publicizes without constraint. It is illusionary yet real sometimes: a dream is an illusion, but sometimes closer to reality than what is seen when awake. While the expanded Turkish Bath may be imagined fantasies in some eyes, it may be the blueprint some strive to actualize, or even the real scene in which some have personally been long ago. Perhaps, it’s something which some have experienced, but gradually faded into a long-lost dream and an untouchable mirage…
A Picture: Fang Shaohua
When I was little, without any understanding of artists, I used to mix up the portfolio of Fang Shaohua and those of the classical masters, but I was already captivated by the compilation of colors and the flow of lines in the book. Looking back, it is perhaps the purest artistic experience, awakened by Fang’s works. His techniques and thoughts are solid, and one can see countless peculiar elements and different cultures interacting within his works. His brushstrokes are natural and even ornate, yet he can always use a humorous manner to reconcile the rigidity of serious subject matters and leave behind a “quality” unique to history.
The distinctive cultural background has given his works a lasting flavor of the East, while talents and personality have conferred a special spiritual quality and artistic attitude on him . Fang Shaohua was raised in a scholarly family, imbued with traditional art from a young age. Afterwards, he received a Soviet-style education at Institute of Fine Arts and was influenced by German expressionism. This provided him with a solid foundation, and a clear vision of his own artistic path in the contemporary fashion of conceptual art. He is a self-conscious artist who have given up becoming a popular “master”, having written down the following words in his autobiography:
Painters nowadays must get involved in the mutually beneficial and reciprocal art circulation system and attend exhibitions whatever the scale, location, and organizer. Therefore, he must manage to communicate with the art critics, so that they have something to rely on when they have nothing to say. To achieve this, he seems to understand many “isms”, familiar with various styles. He has to explore the future of humanity and the universe laboriously all year, and to engage in different conversations with different people; otherwise, he cannot make connections with the real world and will be ashamed to be given a title of a master…One is truly pathetic when forced to do so. (Fine Arts Literature, 1998)
In Fang’s words are open-mindedness and consciousness, without denying or avoiding anything. He has the talent of masters but never uses it on purpose. Without serious lecturing or condensed expression of emotions, he creates everything with a sense of humor. Although his works touch on history, they do not seek to publicize anything, and he deconstructs masterworks but does not intend to change or to overturn them. Naturally, being clear-minded does not imply that he is emotionless without desires – a realist dreams, too. As time flies, countless masterworks became history, and were then edited and deconstructed, but they are always there, just like us in the present. Fang Shaohua deconstructed Ingres’ The Turkish Bath to create Expansion of The Turkish Bath, and I believe that this painting is an embodiment of his artistic attitude. The expanded Turkish Bath is filled with history and reality: in the painting, the piano echoes from afar with the Guqin, and the background ranges from sunlit beaches to waterfalls in mountains. Likewise, the beautiful female figures are a combination of East and West, the ancient and the modern. Fang mixes history and reality to create a discrepancy in time, while the skilled techniques and ingenious representation balance and stabilize the whole painting. This is his conversation across a century with Ingres, as well as his conversation with the present reality. This is an age when any truth is unaccountably denied, but Fang, in his own ways, silently proved that there is no conflict between history and reality, and that among taboo subjects there are solutions to be found. He does not have to take pains to “Orientalize”, and never fully westernizes, as some things are natural born in the first place.
About the artist
Fang Shaohua,Chinese, b.1862, Jingzhou, Hubei Province. He graduated from the Oil Painting Department of Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 1983. He is currently the dean and the professor of school of fine arts of South China Normal University and the director of the China Oil Painting Society.
Solo Exhibitions：2022, A Picture: Fang Shaohua, Fine Arts Literature Art Center, Wuhan; 2022, Bamboo Lack of Spectrum·Fang Shaohua Art Exhibition, Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan; 2021, “Dimension Crack”Fang Shaohua’s Work, Xi'an Art Museum, Xi'an; 2 015, Realm of Forms as Emptiness: Fang Shaohua Solo Exhibition, Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, Hong Kong; 2011, Muse in The Postmaterial Age——Fang Shaohua Solo Exhibition, Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, Hong Kong; 2008, Fang Shaohua——In Search of Harmless Apples For The Garden of Eden, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; 2006, New Stories in The ancient City under The Umbrella——Fang Shaohua 1987-2006 Solo Exhibition, Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, Hong Kong.
Group Exhibitions2020, Brain Drain in the State of Chu: Hubei Contemporary Art, Xiangshan Art Museum, Shenzhen; 2020,Abstraction 2020 PartII Black & White, YIBO Gallery, Shanghai; 2020, Extend Theatre: the 1st public art exhibition in Nanhai, Qiandeng Lake, Foshan; 2019, Beyond the Wall: Special Invited Exhibition for the 10th Anniversary of Xi'an Art Museum in 2019, Xi'an Art Museum, Xi'an; 2019, Ink at Current: Selected Works of the 10th International Ink Art Biennale of Shenzhen, OCAT Shenzhen, shenzhen; 2019, Eyes on Five Different Domains, the Galaxy Museum of Contemporary Art, Chongqing; 2018, The Orientations and Taste of New Painting, Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Chongqing; Contemporary Artisits Manuscript Invitation Exhibition, Art Museum of South China Normal University, Guangzhou; 2017, Beyond Performance: A Chinese Action That Ends the Image, Baijiahu Art Museum, Nanjing; National Archives of Contemporary Art Academic Committee Recommended Exhibition, National Archives of Contemporary Art, Beijing; 2016, Return to the Mountains:the No.3 Spiritual Traces, Lingnan Museum of Fine Art, Dongguan; 2016, Return to the Mountains: the No.4 Spiritual Traces Intellectuality, Beijing Fine Art Academy Art Museum, Beijing; 2015, Calligraphic Time and Space: Abstract Art in China, Power Station of Art, Shanghai; 2014, Re-modernization - 2014 Wuhan 3rd Documentary Exhibition of Fine Arts, Hubei Museum of Art/Fine Arts Literature Art Center, Wuhan; 2014, 1960, Springs Center of Art, Beijing; 2013, Portrait of the Times: 30 Years of Chinese Contemporary Art, Power Station of Art, Shangha; Re-Portrait: No.1 Sanguandian Art Exhibition 2013, Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan; 2012, The 2nd Project Exhibition of the 4th Guangzhou Triennial: the Third Nature Chinese reconstruction, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou; In Time: 2012 Chinese Oil Painting Biennial, National Art Museum of China, Beijing; 2012, Reactivation: 9th Shanghai Biennial, Power Station of Art, Shanghai; 2011, Art HK 11, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong; 2011, Retrospect and Prospect: Hubei Oil Painting Art Exhibition, Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan; 2011, Transfer: No.1 Sanguandian Art Exhibition 2011, Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan; 2010, Exhibition of 90th anniversary of Hubei Institute of Fine Arts, Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan; 2010, Art HK 10, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong; 2009, Art HK 09, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong; 2008, The 2008 3rd exhibition of Guangdong Contemporary Oil Painting, Guangdong Museum of Art,Guangzhou; 2008, Art HK 08, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong; 2008, Interactive: 2008 Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Oil Paintings, Wuhan Art Museum, Wuhan; 2008, Expand & Fusion——Chinese Oil Painting Stude and Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing; 2007, 2nd Documentary Exhibition of Fine Arts Forms of Concepts:the Reform of Concepts of Chinese Contemporary Art 1987—2007, Hubei Museum of Art/Fine Arts Literature Art Center, Wuhan; Which Course to Follow？Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Hong Kong City Hall, Hong Kong; 2005, Guangdong Established Artists Oil Painting Exhibition, Daiichi Modern Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur; 2005, Nature and Man: 2nd Chinese Contemporary Landscape and Oil Painting Exhibition, awarded the "Outstanding Artwork Prize", National Art Museum of China, Beijing; 2005, 1976--2005 Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, National Art Muscum of China, Beijing; 2005, Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Dusseldorf Art Museum, Dusseldorf; 2005, 2nd Guangzhou Triennale, Guangdong Art Museum, Guangzhou; 2004, First Nominative Exhibition of Fine Arts Literature (Wuhan), awarded the "Fine Arts Literature Award”, Arts Museum of HIFA, Hebei; 2004, International Contemporary Art Exhibition, Convention Center, Seoul; 2003, 3rd Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, National Art Muscum of China, Beijing;2003, 2nd Guangdong Contemporary Oil Painting Exhibition, Guangzhou Museum of Art, Guangzhou; 2003, Togetherness: Guangdong Chinese Contemporary Art Collection Exhibition, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou; 2003, Upward Collection: Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou; 2002, Ist Guangzhou Triennale, Guangzhou Museum of Art,Guangzhou; 2002, lst Guangzhou Contemporary Art Triennale:Ten Years of Chinese Experimental Art (1990 2000), Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou; 2002, 17th Asian International Art Exhibition, Daejeon Museum of Art, Daejeon; 2001, Revise and Research: Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, National Art Museum of China/He Xiangning Art Museum, Beijing/Shenzhen; 2000, Shanghai Art Museum Collection Exhibition, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; 2000, 20th Century Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing; 2000, Year 2000 Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; 2000, Society: 2nd Academic Art Exhibition, Shanghe Art Museun, Chengdu; 1999, 14th Asia International Art Exhibition, Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka; 1997, Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Kunst Haus Wien, Vienne; 1997, Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art, Singapore National Art Museum,Singapore; 1997, Conversation with China: Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art, Copenhagen Exhibition Hall, Copenhagen; 1997, Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art, Zacheta Modern Art Museum, Warsaw; 1997, Chinese Youth Oil Painting Exibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing; 1997, Asian Intermational Art Fair, Convention Center, Hong Kong; 1996, China!, Bonn Art Museum, Bonn; 1996, Ist Exhibition of Oil Painting Society of China, National Art Museum of China, Beijing; 1996, Ist Academic Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing; 1994, 2nd Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing; 1992, 1990’s Guanghou Oil Painting Biennial, Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Center, Guangzhou; 1992, 92 Asian International Art Exposition, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong; 1992, 90's Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, Redwood Convention Center, Redwood City; 1988, 7th National Art Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing; 1988, Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, Tokyo Art Museum, Tokyo; 1987, 1st Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; 1984, 6th National Art Exhibition, awarded “Outstanding Work Prize”, National Art Museum of China, Beijing.