Yue Minjun, one of the foremost painters of China's avant-garde, is best known for his use of his own likeness in an exaggerated and repeated form. He first began experimenting with this motif in the credibility of surface realities in contemporary society. In an interview with the critic and curator Li Xianting, Yue commented on how his perception of reality and human nature: "I lived in a compound where all the families belonged to the same work unit. I had little conduct. At that time, I thought that life was normal and hopeful. After graduating from middle school I got a job. The work unit was small and somewhat isolated but there were still many people 'plotting' against each other… It occurred to me that relations between people were far different from what I had experienced at school, and it infused me with skepticism."
Yue's paintings from the early to mid-1990s display the raw elegance of the artist discovering the major themes in the series, emerging from his academic training and his increasingly cynical view of reality. Painting his satirical, stylized "self-image" in absurd scenarios allowed Yue to create a parallel universe, a burlesque of recognizable own self-image bent over and grinning at us, upside down, through the arch of his own legs. The bright blue sky and fluffy clouds, the bold the propagandistic images of the communist era. The pose though is far from heroic or inspiring, and instead is like that of a child who can't behave in front of a camera. Yue's "self-image" has no true individual character, but is the representation of a collective psychological disposition, a generation too jaded to comport to expected norms or behaviors.