October 15th, 2011
Yang Hongwei (b. 1968 in Tianjin, China)
Family of China No.1, 2007, Wood engraving
Been awhile! Sorry for the absence folks, will try my best to be semi-regular about this from here on out.
Today I’m offering up this stunner by Yang Hongwei, “Family of China No. 1″. Like most of the art I post for Art of the Day, this, and its artist, were new to me. This one bricked me when I saw it, just stunned me with its tone, texture, themes. What at first seems like a Fangoria zombie murder scene reveals itself to be more complex: a family in a bathtub, struggling, holding each other desperately. A kind of ghost figure leaning in on the right side. Flesh merging with flesh as the family members lose their autonomy, seeming to eat each other to survive, becoming one unit. A smoky industrial sky, as if these people live out in the sooty open, naked and tangled.
All of this to me evokes first of all the bloody, raw grind and compress of poverty. The way it forces boundaries erased and puts people in conditions where privacy is impossible. Where there isn’t emotional energy left to waste on anything but extreme expressions of yearning, mourning, fear, hunger, anger. No time for nuance, subtlety.
And it suggests the ways in which a family, in order to protect itself and survive, can turn inward, become insular and conglomerated, & thereby finding a strength in that insularity, but also a deepening of their confusion.
More of Hongwei’s work at Artnet.