Southwest Art Research Group

Southwest Art Research Group
(Xinan yishu yanjiuqunti)
A mid 1980s group from Yunnan and Sichuan who reacted against the sentimental beauty of Native Soil Painting. Stating that art should move souls rather than eyes, they ditched representation of generic figures in favour of depicting personal experience. Their passionate and subjective approach, known as ‘stream of life’ (sheng huozhiliu or shengmingzhiliu), was a countercurrent of ‘rational painting’ in the 85 New Wave [Art] Movement. Notable works include Mao Xuhui’s intense, frank exploration of the self and private space in his series Figures in a Concrete Room (Shuini fangjianli de renti, 1986), Private Space (Siren kongjian, 1987) and Patriarch (Jiazhang, 1989–2000). Also Zhang Xiaogang’s poetic allegories of life and death and Ye Yongqing’s paintings on themes of nature, urban life and escapism. Portraying a personal, psychological realism, their works reflected on the existence of the soul and the instinct to live: an attitude that questioned the values of civilization and explored the individual’s need for self-preservation.
The group grew from a core of artists which held the ‘New Figurative [Xin juxiang] Painting Exhibition’ in June 1985. One of the earliest self-funded and initiated exhibitions, it brought the art of southwest China first to Shanghai, and subsequently to Nanjing.
Following the nation-wide trend, they established themselves formally as the Southwest Art Research Association in August 1986 with a membership of thirteen. The group held several slide shows and conferences in Shanghai and Kunming in 1986, co-organized the large-scale 1988 Southwest Modern Art Exhibition, Chengdu, and featured prominently in the 1989 China Avant-Garde exhibition.
Gao, Minglu et al. (1991). Zhongguo dangdai meishushi 1985–1986 [The History of Contemporary Chinese Art 1985–1986]. Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 241–60.
‘Southwest Modern Art Exhibition’ (1988) (exhibition catalogue). Special issue of Huajia [Painter] 9 (Hunan meishu chubanshe).
van Dijk, Hans (1992). ‘Painting in China after the Cultural Revolution: Style Developments and Theoretical Debates (Part II: 1985–1991)’. China Information 4.4 (Spring): 1–17.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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