signed and dated 2000; signed in Chinese and dated 2000 on the reverse
Oriental Art, Master, August 2006 (issue no. 115), p.71.
Yue Minjun's conceptual paintings epitomise his understanding of painting per se. As early as 1994, he began to simulate and imitate classical paintings by western masters, such as Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, Massacre at Si'a Island and Liberty Leading her People. Such prankish imitation actually carries on his sense of absurdity in artistic creation, and enhances the absurdity through deliberate mockery, transforming the paintings of revered western masters into comincal parodies. He re-writes classical art using this painting language and symbolism, modifies and updated traditional styles, simultaneously distorting them. This excludes a single interpretation of (the history of) classical works, subjecting classical themes to contemporary zeitgeist, and fabricating many absurd japes. Since people have become accustomed to a stereotyped aesthetic understanding of these works, Yue Minjun's experiments estrange these well-know modes, keep the audience in suspense, whilst providing them with pleasure derived from new approaches and perspectives, and a sense of freedom that comes from casting off classical rules demonstrated in works.
Excerpt from the article Feng Boyi, To Be Is Just Absurd: The Art of Yue Minjun, taken from Feng Boyi, Reproduction Icons: Yue Minjun Work, 2004-2006, China, 2006.
Yue has made approximately 15 such paintings which are reworks of iconic images from Western and Chinese art history. In the case of this painting, the famous Vermeer, A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window (c.1657-1659), in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemaldegalerie, Dresden.
Yue Minjun reworks the painting such that the figure is subtracted and the scale is greatly enlarged. Vermeer's work is 83 by 64.5cm. Clearly, the girl is the focus of the Vermeer - her state of mind as she reads the letter. Yue's move raises the question: what happens to the meaning of this iconic image when the figure is removed? Is there any power left in the setting or the objects as they are? One thing happens for sure; we can see the framing and presentation devices that show off the figure and shape how we perceive the person. And if the scale is increased to monumental size, does that alter how we engage the work?
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