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Vapid art of pretty faces and empty heads

A childlike girl with a pink bow in her hair stares vacantly ahead as butterflies flutter about.

This painting, "The Butterflies Flutter," is an example of "infantalization," referring to young artists who won't grow up, and their sometimes vapid art.

In this case, however, the image is vapid because society is vapid, the artist says.

The butterfly work by Jiang Heng, a well-known figure in the "infantilization" movement, is part of his solo show at Shanghai Art Museum. It ends tomorrow.

The young girls that Jiang creates seem to live in a dream world without realistic elements: they appear unworried about tomorrow and content with their existence.

"These works were inspired by advertising," says the 37-year-old artist.

"The form of advertisements actually distorts our sensibility. The products that we see through advertisements are not the products themselves. Consumers receive pleasure and satisfaction, visual and psychological, through ads."

Jiang's canvases are like flat advertisements as he applies the same even technique to all colors and content.

His purpose is to reveal a social phenomenon, he says. "Is the cartoon-like, pure and pretty face the only standard for this commercial society?" he asks.

"They might appear lovely, but they are lifeless. They are merely the outcome from cosmetic surgery, or a decorative symbol," Jiang explains. "They are no longer related to body and soul, on the contrary, they are akin to those beautiful butterflies that float aimlessly in every corner of society."

Art critic Ma Qingzhong once observed that Jiang "dissolves the academic oil painting language and fuses the images of cartoons and advertisements into his works."

"If you are smart, you will understand the contrast between the surface of my paintings and my opinion," he says. What young people admire these days is the surface and the fashion icon, not personal ideals.

Date: through July 10, 9am-5pm

Address: 325 Nanjing Rd W.

Tel: 6327-2829


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