The spring of 1979 witnessed the staging of the "Spring Tide Art Society" at Beijing's Zhongshan Park Garden's "Beijing Spring Scenery Still Life Painting Exhibition", in the wake of which a realisation arose that this marked a precedential departure from the 'Selection System' and political consciousness towards freedom in painting and of association. At that time, Feng Guodong, whose official identity was that of a worker because of his rather avant-garde style, participated in this exhibition and drew great attention from the art world. In 1980, Feng Guodong's oil painting Free Person appeared in the Beijing Oil Painting Research Association exhibition where it caused quite a stir. At that time, Art magazine editor Li Xianting sought out Feng Guodong, commissioning him to write an explanatory article. In the resulting article titled A Sweeper's Dream, Feng Guodong narrated how he had led a life of extreme hardship for the sake of his painting, lacking money to buy either paints or canvas, and so used tattered clothes, bedsheets and quilts as canvas. Publication of this article unleashed a widespread reaction within society, and earned him the profound gratitude of an entire younger generation of cultural and art pioneers such as China's Big Daddy of rock 'n' roll, Cui Jian, and representatives of cynical realism like artist Fang Lijun.
Feng Guodong's early period was the era of the inception of unofficial painting, a time when painting exhibitions sprang up like spring bamboo shoots appearing after rain, of the ilk of "Untitled Paintings" of Experiencing the Cultural Revolution, Emphasising Spiritual Independence and Creation of a Sincere Beijing. This pursuit of liberty, self-realisation and experimentalism held a special significance for the activities and events known as the Beijing 'Star Painting Association', 'contemporaneous with Shanghai's 'Grass Painting Society', 'Twelve-Man Painting Exhibition', etc. Feng Guodong himself participated in the 'Beijing Oil Painting Reseach Assocation' organised by professional painters and professors, whose membership included Jin Shangyi, Yuan Yunsheng, Pang Jun, Zhong Ming, Quan Zhengbei, Ye Wulin, Zhu Naizheng, Yang Yanping, Cao Dali, Yan Zhenduo, Ji Cheng, Fu Yuan, Zhan Jianjun, and Liu Bingjiang, and the 1979 Beijing Spring Painting Exhibition previously referred to was the precursor to this research association.
Lady in Front of the Curtain (Lot 131), created in 1979, is rare, retaining intact the artist's sketches, manuscripts, and original paintings. Feng Guodong characterises his works as arising in the course of a dream blurring past, present, and future into one.
The woman in the painting has a graceful bearing and her gown is festooned with ribbons, while her colourful garb of rich red is redolent of quaint Han and Tang dynasty costumes; the bold application of colour is original, vigorous and forceful, and the black outlines and shading is steadfast and strong, replete with the vigour of a seal script album. The overall colour and theme weave a continuous thread with ancient Chinese aesthetics. Leave the Chinese for Now is a creation of freedom, the vibrations of whose rich Fauvist colours meld into Modernist-style ideas, while geometric abstractions combine with the painting language to produce an extremely personal touch on the canvas, one that is rare indeed in post-Cultural Revolution art. The artist also transforms a near dream experience from the human subconscious into an image that leads viewers to break through into a different world. The elegant atmosphere surrounding the face of the lady in Feng Guodong's painting, with its colourful makeup, imparts an aura of drama, and her posture, with outspread hands, seems to tell of the woman's open-minded cynicism in this world. The artist masks the suffering of life with idealised painting language and humour in a creation which emanates powerfully from the heart and with all the fidelity of a life devoted to art.