Friday, 15 October 2010

He Sen: the lost generation

Beijing-based artist He Sen has been painting girls smoking, drinking and dazing for a good 10 years now. He has quietly become a powerful force among contemporary Chinese painters. His ultra-realisitc and photographic oil paintings of women, often in seductive underwear and poses, are sharp and blurry at the same time, with starkly contrasting colours, greyed-out background and vivid details which paint a bleak and pessimistic picture of the youth culture in China. 

Without contextualising the images it's easy to dismiss He's work as simply the "objetification" of women, possibly border-line "erotic". But the message here is more complicated than that. These women are beautiful, yet their bodies are deadly grey, their faces often blank and lacking intensity compared to their clothing and pose, shadows often dance into the background and the only one or two details that stand out are the lips, the drinks and the cigarette smoke.  After much fame and fortune, He has moved on in recent years to ink and pen and re-invented classic Chinese paintings of flowers and trees, but to the Western world these nearly naked sad girls still look far more interesting.  

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