“I wanted to paint all the places I stayed in so I could remember them well.”

Born 1984, Huatong, Liaoning

“I like the traditional way of painting,” Dong Yuan says. Oil painting, though, is hardly traditional in China—and she does it on a far from traditional scale. Her works are visual encyclopaedias of ordinariness. For Daily Scenes (2009), she painted 42 separate views from the stairwells of her apartment building on the outskirts of Beijing. They are far from beautiful—dusty yards, scrawny trees, people doing daily chores—but her meticulous rendering gives them a kind of beauty. Her Home of Paintings (2008) is constructed from 59 canvases; Painting Kitchen (2010) contains 172; and Sketch of Family Belongings (2008) has 186. These keenly observed and patiently executed works transform the cheap, often shoddy contents of humble homes into things of exquisite beauty. The Repeated Illusion series (2013) also has a homey touch. Copying her favourite still lifes by painters such as Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Jean-Baptist Weenix, Adolph von Menzel, and Jan Brueghel the Elder, Dong Yuan altered them to suit her personal taste, much as one might recover a sofa. In Repeated Illusions 1, she paints an empty vase and suspends cut-out painted flowers on a line near the canvas: “I like clean things,” she says.


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