Art Scene China - Contemporary Chinese Art


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Urban Disintegration

The "Homeland" series of paintings by Feng Dakang are melancholic and thematically poetic. As the artist is obsessed with architecture, decay and destruction, he paints buildings in a state of ruin or demolition. Yet, these twisted and damaged structures are wonderfully delicate. The details of Feng’s compositions - the bricks, wood and cracked concrete - are skillfully rendered with keen attention to detail. As a result, one might overlook his expression of annihilation and impending demise and instead see the extraordinary beauty on canvas. Upon closer examination, the 'human heart' that the artist applies to his urban landscapes makes the architectural remains seem vulnerable. Like the protagonist of a movie or a book, we sympathize with the main character of Feng’s paintings, in this case his structures. The somewhat skeletal frames of the structures are fatigued and fractured as though the buildings have faded with age. Thus, the broken windows of the buildings could symbolize a hopeless spirit. The glassless windows offer no view of what might have been pastoral landscapes in the building's former day. Unlike the natural ageing process however, the 'lives' of Feng Dakang’s buildings have fallen short due to existing in a world that is rushing towards modernity.

In simple terms, Feng Dakang expresses his feelings about modern skyscrapers replacing beautiful old architecture; it is a tragedy which he records in his paintings. Like many Chinese artists who are concerned with the societal and cultural effects of the "China Boom", Feng Dakang defends heritage and character. However, his expression is profoundly gentle and unique. In addition to preserving history, he is also concerned about the displacement of people and the environment. By subtly juxtaposing lone buildings with images such as a floating doll or a dying flower, the artist's meaning is comprehensive. For example, one can imagine the child with whom the doll used to belong to and the garden the flower once flourished in. The overall effect is sad and eerie. As though the decayed buildings he depicts are the last on earth, it is clear that Feng Dakang feels a great loss for these abandoned structures.

Feng Dakang has also been adding planes to his paintings which can be seen passing by the buildings. Certainly, as the artist points out, the movement of the planes signifies the passage of time and the strive towards modernity, putting the old buildings into the past. However, planes also serve as parallel man-made objects. Planes, too, are marvels of human creation – they, too, are graceful. After humans have used planes, they will also be subject to decay and destruction over time, as the buildings are, and they will eventually be discarded by people. It is interesting that the planes in the paintings sometimes appear to be almost alive, looking at the destruction of the buildings. Perhaps it is in anticipation of their own eventual fate. Feng has also been more recently including naturally beautiful figures such as plum blossoms, water lilies and goldfish juxtaposed with the buildings. Clearly, these things are opposites, yet ironically both are similar in that they are now often used to serve man, and after their usefulness is over, they are also discarded. The tension between human construction and nature exists within the many layers of the artist's work. Not only is urbanization replacing history and beautiful landscapes on a global scale, it is happening at an alarmingly rapid pace in China.

In addition to offering a profound and intelligent insight on urbanization, Feng Dakang is also highly trained. He received his Master’s Degree of painting at one of China's top art academies. His skill and talent lead him to be selected as a top 20 finalist at the reputable Dragonair Chinese Emerging Artist Awards 2006 (DECAA) at Art Scene Warehouse – now called the Chinese Art Prize (CAP). Feng’s work has been exhibited worldwide from Asia to North America to Europe; he was featured at the world famous Art Cologne art exposition in 2007 and will be exhibited in New York in early 2008. The work of this young artist is highly appreciated internationally because of his fresh and creative approach to a mature theme - a theme that affects us all.