Portraiture and figurative art rely on tools both mechanical and psychological. Traditionally, figurative representation would serve those in power, presupposing an idealized man or woman. Often relying on the manipulation of photographic images to achieve painterly postures imbued with apparent moral authority and a false sense of authenticity. Gradually, more individualistic pursuits ensued, where an artist could insert a figure as a stepping off point to a deeper understanding of both the inner life of the subject-figure, as well as the inner life of the artist depicting the subject-figure.
This co-dependent relationship between figure and artist is an uneasy one. Each observing the other, to see how each is perceived. A bond inevitably develops between artist and portrait subject. In the best of the new psychological portraits, the figure as it is portrayed, holds the keys to unlocking the inner self. Not only the subject’s self but also the artist’s and even the viewers’ selves.
The ruling tendency in Chinese contemporary art is no longer figuration. The pendulum has swung to abstraction, multi-media, and other post-modern pursuits. Despite these trends, the stubborn belief remains: That figurative art can go deeper. For some, there is a nagging suspicion that figurative art is more complex, and can achieve more, despite current trends to the contrary. Perhaps, within these trend-defying spaces, individual pursuits will drive figurative artwork into new 21st century realms, heretofore unexplored.
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