As with fellow Cynical Realist artist, Yue Minjun, Fang Lijun's first radical breakthrough as an artist was to begin painting images from his own life, himself and his friends. Living in the remote artist community of Yuan Ming Yuan in the suburbs of Beijing in the early 1990's, Fang and others rejected their Socialist-Realist academic training, and adopted a rebellious and cynical attitude emphasizing their feelings of existential drift and futility.
Fang in particular gravitated towards images of leisure and images of swimming in particular. In the newfound freedoms associated with China's reform era and consumerist revolution, Fang discovered in his generation a sense of helplessness and a lack of meaning. Fang's series of swimmers are multi-layered. They depict scenes of relaxation and freedom, but also of escapism and nihilism. In a work such as this, it is not entirely clear as to whether or not the figure is thriving or drowning, seeming to be perennially on the brink of just making contact and saving himself. As with this example, Fang's works of the period were typically monochromatic, often simply black and white, further reflecting the artist's spiritual malaise. The omniscient, overhead point of view reinforces the solitude of the painting, as if the world has abandoned this swimmer, and he in turn has abandoned the world.