“I give old things new meanings through my work.”

Born Yingkou City, Liaoning, 1976

Painting “is like an asylum for me”, says Shen Liang. Within that haven he experiments boldly, riffing on themes from Chinese history. An early series of paintings reflected on Beijing Opera, an iconic art form that his contemporaries largely ignore. For This Is a Book (2007) Shen Liang revisited the propaganda comic books of the Cultural Revolution, carefully reproducing their covers in oils at many times the original size, then defacing the images with lewd and jokey scribbles—the kind bored schoolboys might do in class. Each cover is tagged, graffiti-style, with the artist’s name. In treating pulp propaganda as high art, he mocks the Communists’ attempts at thought manipulation, the gullibility of their subjects—and his own stature as an artist. Once, he says, “when you finished a painting, you didn’t dare mess with it. It was such a heavy feeling. Now I find that vandalising my own paintings relaxes me.”


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