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May 28, 2011

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The personification of pessimism

PAINTER Feng Shuo's personified animals often depict stories about the cruel world. He tells Wang Jie and Chen Ye he's more of a craftsman as he says artists aren't born with innate talent.

Artist Feng Shuo claims that he and his art are pessimistic.

His recent paintings feature personified pigs, dogs and rabbits filled with lust and desire.

Through these animals, the artist tells stories about the cruel and restless reality of the world.

"The great misery in life often comes from the loss of love, justice and trust," Feng says.

Born in 1970 in Beijing, Feng graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and later obtained a master's degree at the Central Academy of Drama, where he now works as an associate professor.

Feng began painting at the age of 16, but he doesn't believe the saying that artists are born with innate talent.

"There is no existing talent in the visual art area, unlike music. Well, that's what I think, anyway," he says. "The depth of thinking actually weighs a lot in the visual art area. One could be an accomplished artist even if he learns at a rather late age, but there is no renowned musician who doesn't enter the area at an early age."

In his eyes, an artist is akin to a craftsman.

"He hides in a corner and does his own job," Feng says. "He murmurs something that may or may not interest others. He is rather pleased if his art occasionally interests others. That's all."

Unlike his peers in Beijing who often gather together to form their "small community," Feng prefers to be alone.

"I hate to hang around in the so called 'art circle'," he says. "I prefer walking the streets unrecognized. Viewers only need to look at my paintings, they don't need to know much about me."

As such, Feng keeps a low-profile and says he even missed his first solo-exhibition.

"Believe it or not, I really don't care about the response of others toward my paintings. Sometimes it is a kind of reward, but mostly I don't care about the simple comments people make."

Regardless of whether he likes it or not, art critics and insiders will continue to comment on his work.

Lewis Biggs, artistic director of the Liverpool Biennial, a festival of contemporary art in the British city, who was in Shanghai last week, thinks highly of Feng's work.

"Feng Shuo is a very skillful artist," Biggs says. "I first saw his art work in 2006, and it is very persistent and well laid out.

"I hope he can gain the recognition that he deserves."

Biggs says he really likes a painting featuring two dogs - one white and one black.

"Feng's artwork is different, you learn more by spending more time with his paintings," he says. "And I do enjoy the experience of learning."

As a contracted artist with Marlborough Gallery, one of the top galleries in the United States, Feng's recent "Pig Series" and "Angel Series" received wide attention.

"My 'Angel Series' is a bit humorous as angels always appear happy, so happy that it's almost unreal and boring," Feng says. "So I want to punish them, let them suffer some pain on earth. Maybe such punishment will later give them sympathy when they grow up."

Some say that there is a dramatic aura in Feng's paintings, but the artist feels differently.

"The dramatic feeling is hidden in the heart of everyone," he says. "It has nothing to do with what job you do."

'Feng Shuo: 2011.05'

Date: through July 1

Address: Bldg3, 9, Hengshan Road


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