1653 | MAO YAN Painted in 1997 PROFILE OF XIAOSHAN


Author: MAO YAN 毛焰

Size: 61×50cm

Signed and dated: Painted in 1997


Final Price: RMB 1,100,000

2007 The Portrait of Zero Degree: Painting of Xia Xiaowan and Mao Yan / P88-89 / AYE Gallery
signed in pinyin and dated 1997.5
Mao Yan’s conceptual portraits have had a significant influence on the history of contemporary Chinese art and the development of portrait painting. At the beginning of the 1990s, Yan mastered the techniques of painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, laying down the foundation for his subsequent career. His creative process is deeply inspired by the 1985 Chinese New Wave movement. He creates using the expressive language of avant-garde and modern Western art while striving to subvert the conventions of European realistic oil painting. Through continual experimentation, he has gradually developed a unique style of his own. He has a gift for identifying rational components in conflicts and exploring the state of people or things at a given moment. In the mid-1990s, Mao created a number of highly unique conceptual portraits. This series, entitled Friends, was inspired by the small-sized portraits of Johannes Vermeer. The models for this series, such as Li Xiaoshan and Han Dong, are all good friends of Mao’s. Mao imbues these portraits of his comrades with a sense of mystery; light appears to radiate outwards from the center of the canvas. The beholder can sense that the artist is not representing his friends realistically — these portraits have a transcendental quality, almost as if Mao aimed to depict their inner spirits or perhaps externalize his own feelings and experiences.Profile of Xiaoshan (1997) is one of the most striking works in the Friends series. On a canvas of modest dimensions, the artist thoroughly and exquisitely represents the feelings, personality, and spiritual state of his friend, demonstrating a high degree of artistic cultivation. While the Portrait of Xiaoshan from 1992 was a colorful and surrealist work, the Profile from 1997 suggests that Mao Yan since grew tired of that style. In this work, he portrayed the subject with a deliberate two-dimensional style and a palette of gray hues. By depicting the subject’s contours using carefree brush strokes, Mao neutralized the work’s stereoscopic vision. Furthermore, the borders between the subject and the background are somewhat obscure, making it seem as though the model is engulfed in mist. Although the work primarily features slightly oppressive shades of gray, certain details make use of contrasts between warm and cool hues, as well as clearness and obscurity, in order to create a dreamlike effect. While this technique is simple, it conveys profound meaning. In this work, it is clear to see that Mao Yan has taken great pleasure in the creative process as he demonstrates his insights into human nature.