Born in 1968 in Shandong province, Ling Jian studied fine arts at the Central Academy in Beijing. After completing his degree in 1982 he left China for an atelier in Berlin where has continued to work and live. Yet never far from his homeland, his work has been dominated by an exploration of Chinese political and social life in one of its most historic moments. As Fan Dian notes, ‘as a Chinese artist living in Germany, he is influenced by both Eastern and Western cultures. He deals not only with his own cultural tradition, but also with aesthetics of a cross-cultural nature.’
Known for his bold portraits of Chinese women – large in size and usually limited to his subjects visage, his art has captured both the best and worst in the social legacy left by China’s communist leaders. In his latest series of works, it is the image of the Communist Sister that has come under his scrutiny. These paintings depict, in a provocative and tempestuous style, the idealized and fictionalized Chinese Communist Sister. Creating a composition simple in construction but technically brilliant, Ling Jian poses questions about the depth behind superficiality and the reality behind appearance.
Following the ancient Greek tradition of striving for ideal beauty found from variety of sources, Ling Jian shuns the idea of using one model as the sole source of his inspiration. Instead, seeking physical perfection from a variety of different women, he creates an amalgamated/ideal female form – one that in his latest works has evolved from that of the beautiful and healthy female to one who bears a strained psychological and physical form. The perfect hand, eye, lips, nose, breast are brought together to create his own particular vision of bodily perfection, which he simultaneously builds up and destroys.
Underneath this exploration of the body’s identity lies the wider social context within which he situates his art. Ling Jian, like many of his contemporaries, seeks reconciliation between the China of the past and the China of the present – and does so through examining its role and its effect in the life of women. More than merely exploring physical identity, he brings to the fore an introverted image of the female Communist loyalist. By manipulating her identity—making her into a beautiful, highly sexualized individual—he subverts her original identity as a modest and unassuming girl-child. In creating his own ‘communist sister’ Ling Jian is addressing the greater cultural and political manipulation this type of government had on China’s population.
2007 Group Exhibition ‘Portrait of a Lady’, Olyvia Oriental, London
2005 Scent of a Woman, Contemporary Chinese Art, Beijing
Chinese Visions, Artiscope Gallery, Brussels
Gorgeous Isn’t Good Enough, Spazio Pirelli, Milan
2004 The Rest of the World, Neuffer am Park, Pirmasens, Germany
2003 Art Cologne
Sublime: New Works by Ling Jian, Courtyard Gallery, Beijing
2002 Sense of Nirvana, Galerie van der Straeten, Amsterdam
2001 Odapark, Center for Contemporary Arts Venrai, Niederlande
2000 Private Journey, Asian Fine Arts/Pruss & Ochs Gallery, Berlin
1999 Zeitaschese, Kampnagelfabrik, Medlenpark, Hamburg