“There is a meaning, but I don’t want to say what it is. I don’t want people to decode it.”

b.1976, Guiyang, Guizhou

If Li Jianfeng’s pictures look chaotic and crazy, that’s because they’re realistic, he says: “I’m not making it up.  That’s what my city looks like.” As to the behaviour of the people, “In small cities people are ridiculous. Their priorities are all back to front.” He will allow that there’s some artist-induced absurdity in his scenes: he often gets his ideas from dreams, he explains. But there is method in the apparent madness. “I’m not like other artists who just want to paint nature.  I want to criticise this society.” He’s not sure “exactly what I want to criticise,” but he does know that “Chinese society is chaotic and sick.”  The West, by contrast, “has discipline and order”. One form that order takes is scientific laws.  Newton’s First Law (2007) evokes the British scientist’s finding that “An object at rest remains at rest, and an object in motion remains in motion with the same speed and in the same direction, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force”. Clearly, the crashed plane, the grounded rocket and the collapsed buildings have been subject to some highly unbalanced forces.  So, it seems, have the dead humans and pigs. Why pigs? Beneath the mask all humans are pigs, the artist says: “People are animals, basically. The pigs refer to our animal nature.”


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