(B. 1963)
1995 No. 5
signed in Chinese; dated '1993.12-95.6'; titled '1995. No. 5' in English (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
39 x 55 cm. (15 3/8 x 21 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1993-1995
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1999

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Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

Fang establishes himself as the forefather of Cynical Realism, a movement marked by philosophical mix of emotional ennui and rogue humour, with his relentless probing into the human condition with motifs that signify the collective psyche of China in the 1990s that shows tension between the utopian vision and reality.

The monumental set of six woodcuts 1999.6.1 (Lot 1323) features Fang's most recognizable motif of the shaved-headed men that are in a powerful continuous motion form of a surging wave. With figures shouting in protest or in agony, fear or anger, the format recalls the heightened drama of a propaganda image, with a crowd of different sized heads staring out from the image as if stacked up on a grandstand, their fists jutting into the air. Fang demonstrates his obvious proficiency in the medium, understanding in dynamic monochromatic composition and efficiency of line in this monumental work. Whereas in the past Fang painted figures whose emotional disposition was one of alienation, desiring both escape and annihilation, here finally is a material vision of that emotional urge. The thematic ambivalence and the indistinct setting further highlight the cynicism that is deeply buried in the content and call for the recognition of the human condition and psyche.

After the Tiananmen Incident of 1989, the nation was hit with nihilism of ideology, which developed rapidly into a sense of ennui and helplessness. In 1995 No. 5(Lot 1324) the fate of the swimmer is uncertain in this wave of emotions - whether they are to emerge or submerge, drown or swim is deliberately left ambiguous. Fang's oceans express a sense of self-liberation from internationalized repression. Yet at the same time, water becomes a time-varying factor that strengthens roguish satire in the artist's works, voicing an ironic, indeterminate utopian hope for the future.

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