As suggested above, the Jiang Hengs soul reveals the fetishistic world
with tangible language. His women, who are well trimmed to fit the
sensibility of Asian viewers, turn into stuffed specimens by rich
sensuality, eroticism and hallucination surrounding them. The surface of
the stuffed samples still maintains the same beauty of a living thing,
but they are in reality lifeless, affecting the viewers sensibility. The
women in Jiangs work do not represent female sex in mankind but rather
symbolize the contemporary world we live in. The todays social reality
is too complex, too labile and too unstable. It might be better
described with the words such as distance, transience and obscurity. His
women are engaged in nothing but fruitless efforts to gain wealth, fame
and love in baser sense of the word which are often dubbed as universal
summation of life. Contemporary artists also feel it hard to flee from
this social reality. Their art lost the aura created by culture based on
rich artistic heritage from old masters such as Michelangelo, Leonardo
da Vinci, Rembrandt and Goethe. The art established by these great
masters is marked by a perfect symbiotic relationship between form and
soul, stasis and movement, and pictorial space and narrative time. The
social actors who direct the contemporary world are, however, the
children, as Schopenhauer once said, who are adrift on the cold waves of
desire that can never be satisfied. For those who live todays world,
which include intellectuals, artists, workers and public servants, life
is nothing but a dark pile of pulverized individuals, obsession and a
lack of well-wrought codes.

This southern art movement at the time was once almost rejected by the
entire art world. And not so long ago, its similar style has become the
illustrative choice for most young artistic groups born in the 1970s.
The contrasts of this phenomenon in time have even caused people to
ignore its initial fact. As I have mentioned at the beginning, Jiang
Heng belongs to the earlier Cartoon Generation, the formation and
development of his symbolism has been almost ten years. From this
perspective, I am also one of the earliest critics who have commented on
this artistic phenomenon. As I retrieve my comment from the time, I
discover that my interest was not on the cartoon per se. To analyze them
with todays context, the so-called cartoon perhaps was only a
intelligible strategy of compositional appropriation. Of course, from
which we also find the visual reference specific to that young
generation. As critics apply different concept to comment on the styles
of todays cartoon, I think one of the problems among them is their
gullible believe in Cartoon, and have forgotten that similar style has
already been important content in publishing and film industries around
the 1970s. The reason I am reiterating my comment from the past is that
I discover, even with my view at the time, I have already more or less
treated cartoon as an intimate issue reflecting on the process of
growing up. The Children reluctant to grow up proposed by Huang Yihan
was perhaps his subjective view of young people as an elder. If we enter
into the particular context of the new generation, in terms of growing
up, what is before them is obvious not unable to grow up, but refusing
to grow up. This attitude of reluctance strikes a cord with the social
and historical background associated with growing up, which reveals the
intense, or even conflicting relationship between the adult society and
its non-adult counterpart. I admit, what I noticed at the time was the
symptom of physical maturity and psychological immaturity, but have
perhaps neglected its meaning. In my view, the reasons for artists to
choose cartoon or cartoon-like forms, from the surface its an outcome of
their specific visual influence during their adolescent period, more
thoroughly, it infiltrates their attitudes on the adult society that
manipulates their growing process. If this hypothesis is true, then
certain types of uniformity shown visually are in themselves an
interesting response. It tells us how they view the grown-ups society.
In dealing with the grown-ups society, that is becoming gradually
pretentious and cynical, as artists, they can perhaps only use forms
that has once been abandoned or neglected by the grown-up society, such
as cartoon, to express their rejection of this society (here I am
referring to the art world in the grown-up society). Of course, as the
art world transforms itself, cartoon began to come a prominent style,
and letting this rejection to become the beginning of a new cycle of art
movement. Whether its later followers shared similar motives, or was
driven by the prospect of future success and have chosen cartoon, of
course needs to be discussed otherwise.



The geographical condition of Guangzhou as a neighboring city of Hong
Kong and one of the faraway metropolises from Beijing, the capital of
China, helped the city to become one of the Chinas first cities to
contact liberal Western culture. The artists of the Cartoon Generation
were the first Chinese artists who raised questions such as what is the
world? and what am I? Those who were born in Asia in the 1970s are now
in their 30s. They may not be the principal axis of the society but one
may say that they form a generation with richer experiences because the
last three decades were one of the most tumultuous periods in Chinese
history. Unlike their predecessors, western values didnt let them
automatically promoted to the elite group, and the currents of
globalization led them from the traditional family-based society to the
age of limitless competition between individuals. They were of the
generation who learned of life not from their parents but who had to
suffer a sense of futility from the freedom guaranteed from selective
love. The common point linking the generation across entire Asia is that
they tended to spend more time on computer games and cartoons within the
urban landscapes suffering rapid urbanization. Jiang Heng has been
almost the only artist of the entire members of the Cartoon Generation
who was able to reconcile the outside society and the self forming the
inner world. He embraces this chaotic and whimsical world with devoted
love. As mentioned above, both simple cartoons and complex artistic
images by Jiang generate different moods among viewers despite their
outward similarities thanks to his soul fully bloomed in the process of
its conflict and reconciliation with the outside world. Our world in a
decade from now will be dominated by the generation of people who were
born in the 1970s. I find in the art of Jiang Heng the universal memory
and obligation of the world that we generate and perform.


(Cynical Realism) 和波普艺术(Political


As is widely known, Jiang Heng is a leading player of the
Guangzhou-based Cartoon Generation that dominated the Chinese art world
in the late 1990s. It was a rare phenomenon not just in China but the
entire world that cartoon or animation emerged as a major artistic
movement in painting. The movement began in Guangzhou, a city of
southern China, by the time when the Cynical Realism and Political Pop
in Beijing were nearing the end of their success. These two art
movements were running for different goals. The first was, for instance,
a powerful message for the outer worlds, social and political worlds,
whereas the second, Cartoon Generation, was a journey in which artists
were seeking after a question of identity concerning the questions, what
affected us and how we grow.

In other words, the artistic trend from Chinas interior, the local
uprising of artistic movement and the rapid transformation of Chinese
society make part for the external conditions of Jiang Hengs art form.
Without these conditions, it would be difficult to imagine how he could
formulate the style we are familiar with today.

snowball 逐渐变得无动于衷。艺术正是长大了的人们的
is personality itself), 布丰也提到艺术是灵魂的面容( art is physiognomy
of the


One may divide beauty into two categories. One is that given by nature
to mankind as a gift, and we call it sublimity. The other is the
artificial one, the beauty made by mankind. This manmade beauty appears
through various media including fashion, design, photography, makeup,
cartoon, caricature, food, courtship, coquettery, gift, architecture,
bridge post, door, youth and adventure tale. Here, however, we tend to
divide the artistic beauty from the beauty mentioned above.

Among the artists who came to the south and are still teaching at the
art college of Huanan Normal University, besides Li Bangyao, there are
also Fang Shaohua, Yang Guoxin and Shi Lei, they each occupies an
important position in the framework of contemporary oil painting. What
is especially important is their importation of artistic thoughts and
compositional concept from Chinas interior. It includes the Political
Pop art from Hubei in the early ’90s and the artists individualized
approach of representation in expressionism. More importantly,
throughout their teaching, they have always put the emphasis on
highlighting individuality, emphasizing on incorporating the individual
with his emotions, emphasizing art as an intervention on reality. With
which, meaningful artistic issues could be formulated, and using it as a
base of entry to current matters. Looking at a few oil paintings from
Jiang Hengs earlier period, they were indeed influenced by foreign
elements. For example, Jiangs Untitled series from 1994 depicts a red
male body in swing as its main subject and contrasting with a background
motif expressing desire. These works have mixed certain styles of pop
art, yet was executed in the expressionist approach. There are shadows
of the Hubei style of painting. And the Cartoon Generation series from
1996, has stylistically reflected the art of Li Bangyao. Without a
doubt, this was the formative years of Jiang Hengs artistic style.

A modern Chinese painter Jiang Heng tried to construct on his painting
the same agony that troubled Hieronymus Bosch five hundred years ago
when he painted The Garden of Earthly Delights. One may argue that there
is a difference between the two: The Boschs panels display imaginary
aspects of human life painted to highlight the value of life in this
world while Jiangs work raise a question via dramatization of distorted
reality what is the valuable life. The pictures by Bosch may hurt the
viewers sensibility by guiding them to the conventional judgment that
the beauty imprinted in their brain via idolatry, fashion and
exaggeratedly beautified women is directly related with the market. The
pain from the judgment is then soon replaced by a sense of freshness or
even hope. We may not feel the same sense from similar images in
cartoons, magazines and still pictures from animated films, but quite
mysteriously the Jiangs pictures make us have the same feeling.

Today, Jiang Hengs art people are familiar with is his repetitive
symbolized beautiful women gazing with flirtatious eyes, they smile
innocently, posing in various flirtatious poses and expressions that
satisfies the secular standard. They display this kind of so-called nave
and beautiful gendered information. To a certain extent, I think Jiang
Hengs women with flirtatious looks is a repetitive statement of sarcasm,
it conveys information contrasting with its superficial appearance, or
even of opposing and conflicting content.

The beauty of Jiangs art is in the optimistic view with which he can
give a room for the spirit of todays chaos. The emotions sweeping our
existence surrounded by numerous cultural elements will never be
meaningless. However, it is not that every individual is given a
significant meaning. Todays media exhibit nature that makes them clash
with each other. An individual is instable because it can neither digest
all the elements that form itself nor defy them outright, because
culture of our time is remained within the narrow-minded process leading
to the well-made codes. The current location of Jiangs art is where he
is convinced of, and waits for, the next years rich harvest produced in
the dark sedimentary soil offered by the uncomfortable, bad-tempered and
cruel waves of desire. His series of stray objects and idols criticize
the aforementioned cultural soil, but the form of his painting maintains
a tense conflict between the two force points, beauty and symmetry. He
criticizes the contemporary world he lives in but never tries to
slaughter it. He does not unreservedly defy the vertigo created by the
todays world but rather tries to contemplate it to get prospects further
away. The degraded objects and women in his paintings never lose the
bright, beautiful smile even when they are under threat from phallic
condoms or guns, blooded by the phallic arrows, or estranged from the
reality via phallic pills. The images show that Jiang never gives up his
boundless trust and love for the world despite the chaotic situation
succumbing it.

As I set Jiang Hengs flirtatious beauties against the background related
growing up, the sarcasm of his works began to emerge. The rosy dream
hidden subconsciously in the early years of adolescence or
pre-adolescence was once oppressed from the adult world, and also parts
separate ways with the promotion of depth in the art world in the past
while. Naturally, as of sarcasm, I am not emphasizing Jiang Hengs
intended flirtatious beauties as a visual description to react or
ridicule. I believe he did not have any sarcastic creative intent. In
other words, he is not interested in the superficial reaction. Or even,
hes not rebellious at all. In the contrary, he is only concerned with
the material desire conveyed through the images. It is precisely for
this reason, could I have interpreted the certain truth in his works,
because what it essentially displays, perhaps he might not even be
clearly aware of, is a kind of deterrent attitude in rejecting the
grown-up society.



summation of


A look at The Garden of Earthly Delights Hieronymus, a triptych by Dutch
painter Hieronymus Bosch, guides the viewer to the full gamut of human
life in history condensed into a single work of art. The Three Poisons
(i.e. greed, hatred and delusion), Seven Vices, Earthly Delights and
their surroundings dominate the painting via the symbolic language
represented by a bird. The word vogel in modern German means bird which
had been widely used since the Middle Ages as a common expression for
sexual intercourse in art works. The Boschs painting lets its viewers
instantly know the meaning of truth, morality and beauty that mankind
seeks after. In his painting, viewers recollections about what is life,
how we lead a good life, and what results are made from this life are
not separated from each other but integrated to make a whole.


Many of us have a loving memory of snowball that we had in our childhood
days. The memory often contains a landscape consisting of snowy field
unfolding itself as if in a magic glass ball, a cottage with smoking
chimney and a Christmas tree inside it. It creates a perfect scene for a
happy family. A boy looking into the glass bowl is soon drawn into the
world of magic unfolded by the fascinating landscape in it. His journey
into the magical world abruptly comes to an end, however, because he
soon realizes that he cannot be part of the world. He yearns to get into
it even by breaking the ball by dropping it onto a hard surface. The
excessive method leads him only to a larger frustration. It is only
after he has grown into an adult that he can have full understanding of
the snowballs secret and contemplate it with the artists indifference.
Art is the Snowball of the people who are grown up. Art is the world of
magic which is effectively divided from the real world. Indulgence into
this magical space is the same as the participation in the way the
artist looks at the world. Sensibility that created fashion,
photography, design, makeup or gift wrapping is nothing but sensibility.
It may have been born or made. Art, however, transcends simple
sensibility. It is the whole of what an artist feels and knows
intuitively as he or she lives on in this world. It is the way he or she
looks at the world, that is, the symbol of his or her world view. If one
is moved by a work of art, then, it means that he or she is moved by the
way the artist looks at the world via the work. The situation may be
better explained by the Schopenhauers expression, art is personality
itself, or Buffons, art is physiognomy of the soul. One can safely
conclude, then, that art is the only means with which we can reveal our
soul to the world. Similarly, we cannot analyze this expression of the
soul. We feel it and are moved, or just pass by it without any sense of