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Chinese Animation in the Making

陈溪 Cecilia Chan 2016-11-30 15:21

Chen Fei

Chen Fei self-deprecatingly said the reason he became an artist was because he didn't like reading books full of words and preferred books with illustrations instead. "I love to draw something fantastic in my early years, like the compilation of a world or a system and I felt joyful using imagination at that time." However, as he grew older, real life began to arouse his thinking, and gradually he began to focus on the observation and description of reality. "Conceiving doesn't always work. Maybe you can imagine what a hell is like by reading many mythologies, but it's by no means more cruel than reality, such as a car accident or a knife splitting a skull in a fight scene, that's what the most shocking and brutal." 


Since then, Chen has put his focus on the theme of real life. By rearranging the scene, he turns the most ordinary scene in daily life into dramatic ones full of rhythm and tension through trivial details and role set, approaching the eyes of viewers in an eccentric way. In Chen's works is his description of painting language: the sense of reality and composition, as well as the story points he arranged, and the deviation and misunderstanding of a certain kind of information between people. He has an almost obsessive eye for detail, like the wallpaper covered with flowers, lush jungles, and thick hair. Every repetitive line and detail is drawn with immense patience and that's how he injects strong sense of realism and movie stills into his works. Chen says, everyone stands on different positions of a problem, so they will use different ways to express themselves. "Contemporary art embraces a lot; devices, ideas, images… and painting is relatively a traditional and classical style. I also do the traditional painting work, I believe in painting language, but in the thousands of years of the historical process of the development of painting, making a breakthrough is difficult." When the viewer looks at the Chen's works, they often will be deterred by discomfort, but meanwhile can't help being drawn in to the narrative and psychological state of the roles on canvas. 


Chen Fei's works feature a strong Chinese "post 80s" style, dramatic story plots are added to those various fantasy imaginations centred on daily life with his girlfriend. He set a variety of roles for himself and his girlfriend, then built the atmosphere with bright colours and laid the scene to tell a bizarre story in the first person narrative with scene painting in seemingly the third person narrative. "I had tried or owned such an ideal: to do more contribution to the whole painting system," he says, "Every artist wants be a part of art history, but that is really difficult and hard to come by, so now I work down to earth and just work out the topic of that time at each stage. The future may be a new series of the next stage, or a new topic." 

Wong Ping

At first glance, Wong Ping's works overflows with childlike innocence that makes people smile. "When I started making animations, it was actually out of the "anti technology" frame of mind. I do hope that the childish style will let 'parents' inadvertently play my animations for kids, and therefore the kids will fall in love with me." artist Wong Ping laughed. In 2006, he returned from Australia after years of studying multimedia design, and did typography in a printing plant in Hong Kong, China. Wong said, because of his unhappiness with his job, he began to write to vent his sense of oppression of overwhelming work pressure. Later, he found a job doing postproduction at a TV station. Unexpectedly he was made redundant at the TV station in 2009, which made him into a "vagrant".


At that time, Wong suddenly decided to go to Beijing. One day, when he wandered on the streets of Beijing, seeing a couple in the market made him thinking: "They can live a cheap life with a large-space studio doing whatever they love by a low-paid casual job. But I had no choice when I was in Hong Kong where you have to keep working to survive, leaving your own life aside. Even if I just want to live a normal, cheap life, the life cost is still very high." Wong was filled with a pool of thoughts in Hong Kong and he began to draw what he saw and felt when returned to Hong Kong. Later he studied animation on his own to express his feelings in a more controllable way. Wong said that making animation is how he tells stories and he appreciated the charm as "the flexible creation by God" of the animation. "Everything is created by myself and emotions of roles can be controlled without restriction of reality." The series of animated pictures he produced were full of childish innocence and naivety, filled with lively and bright colours, whereas the inner core is an exposition of gender, society, and psychological states of contemporary youth. With a "Wong Kar Wai" style of language, his works are witty and humorous; bold and direct visually, but not overwrought. 


Wong joked that his creation comes entirely out of personal desires. "For example, the work Stop Peeping was about a summer when a girl moved to the neighbouring flat and 'I' couldn't help but to peep until 'I' was infatuated with her 'sweat'." In addition, in 2011 Wong was asked by the independent band No One Remains Virgin to to make a short video on anti property hegemony, called Below the Lion Rock, and the music video of the animation won the gold medal in animation group in 2013 ifva Independent Film and Video Media Contest. "Below the Lion Rock sees life under relatively large image, and Stop Peeping is a micro viewpoint of Hong Kong. The former is a way of catharsis, and the latter is suppressed."

Liu Yi

Liu Yi said her original intention of creation had nothing to do with "animation". "I want to do two things in animation works, how to 'animate' well, and how the works relate with the space." Recently, in the exhibition of the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, the work Space in Mind of Liu Yi truly stands out. In such work that combines devices with animation, Liu hangs her animation The Chaos in Midair, with paintings printed on silks circled around the video, and the thin screen floats like ripples under the effect of fans.


Liu, who was born in 1990, has worked on ink animation since 2012 and has completed The Theory of Evolution, The Chaos, Ferry, Body in Void and other works. Liu Yi is a fan of Chinese traditional ink animation, especially The Princess of Iron Fan. She usually paints works frame by frame. An animation of a few minutes usually requires some 5,000 paintings, so she often "stays indoors for half a year".

Liu's ink animation works are of a unique style. The exhibition especially creates a constant movement and changeable visual experience for spatial installations of images designed in chaos by combining the flow of the video and the dynamic state of silk, shaping an extremely dynamic view of "contemporary ink painting".


The film shows the artist's skilled Chinese painting and animation techniques, displaying a variety of fresh and lively lives and the relationship between human beings and other creatures. Dynamic states like things growing, seeds bursting, animals going hunting and others wholly displayed by the ink. And more importantly, artists are trying different ways of viewing the dynamic scenes and picture carriers. In this exhibition, with the contrast of the flowing silk paintings and the projection of digital animations on the paper, the artist creates various dynamic images. How effect displayed on the exhibition scene perfectly matches what Liu said in the narrative of The Chaos: "I was more like an imagined traveller telling the story, because I want these things in space to take place and intertwine with each other, but the chaotic zone is not a mess, the chaos itself has its own infinite internal structure but nested within each other..."

Yang Yang

Yang Yang says that positive gloom and horror may have you trembling, while seemingly nice and easy techniques can reveal abstract logic in a smarter way. Some nihilism leads to an open mind, but I hope this nothingness is not hollow or indolence." This is exactly why you can find subtle delights all over her works. 

A post-80s millennial, Yang Yang credits her parents with much of her creativity. Born into an individualistic family, she remembers once when she was young that her free-spirited father showed her a video of a human dissection. Such things might be why her relaxed and brightly coloaured works have a lingering underlying darkness. She likens her mother's care to chicken soup; warm and caring, if "overly nutritious". As for her work Poor Turtle And Good Mother, she extends the food metaphor of mother's love by narrating a story of a woman serving her child fair delicacies by slaughtering a turtle. 


Her hand-drawn animation, Fruits, in 2012 signalled a transition in her animation style, which she claims to be related with her exchange stay at Columbus College of Art and Design in USA. Tutors said that her previous work was too conceptual and obscure; difficult to understand. Heeding the feedback, she started her study all over from the basic training, emphasising on movements and depicting gravity. Yang Yang's following '1/3' series delves even further to the bottom of imaging principle. She took advantage of the persistence of vision and overlapping physical objects with light sources to create an interesting RGB ghosting akin to a glitch effect. "I took the example of a fanned out toy my dad used to make me. With the help of visual persistence, there you can see a bird on side and a cage on the other." Yang Yang recalls that it was her first present when she was a child, so when she did this piece on her own, she rediscovered her innocence once more. 

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