Lives and Works: Beijing
Shao Fan is known for his intriguing, achromatic oil paintings of animals, but recently he has also created a number of works in traditional Chinese ink. Each brushstroke is executed in the tradition of Chinese calligraphy, in the sense that the stroke itself is already beautiful. Deeply influenced by Chinese tradition, his seemingly approachable works are not easy to grasp for someone from a Western background. When confronted with the antiquities Shao Fan uses, this view needs no explanation, because Eastern and Western per¬ceptions are quite similar here. But when it comes to contemporary painting, Western viewers need to detach themselves from the logic of the avant-garde and its pursuit of the new and unknown. Whereas, in Western culture, oldness is related to terms such as worn out, faulty, outdated, and ugly, it has a much more positive meaning in China. Oldness is regarded as a quality, something ap-proved and proven, mature, rare, and, above all, beautiful. The achromatic palette of Shao Fan’s paintings is chosen on purpose, to make them appear old.
Shao Fan was among the first artists in China to create works that walk a fine line between art and design. Shortly after graduating from Beijing Arts and Crafts College in 1984, he began working on objects, relating to this as his passion. For exam¬ple, he combines a chair from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with acrylic glass plates in a way that makes it seem as if the chair is exploding and its individual pieces are about to fly apart. The inner structure revealed—the individual parts—is as beautiful to Shao Fan as the assembled whole.
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