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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Beijing

  • Catalogue Essay

    Wei Rong was born in Beijing in 1963 and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1987. She is renowned for her hyper-realistic technique, and is best known for her sepia or black-and-white images of revolutionary-era China into which she inserts a disjunctive contemporary detail in color—a modern overcoat, a cellphone, even items of retro ‘China Chic’ attire.

    The artist’s obsession with apparel and accessories as signifiers of class, status, and profession in China’s cultural milieu is beautifully illustrated in this early work which takes, as its subject, a relatively humble setting. Aptly titled New Rhythm, it is an extraordinary depiction of the cultural transformation that swept across China in that decade. In the top half of the picture, female dancers clad in the blue-and-white attire common to the southern provinces perform a traditional Chinese dance in a modest concert or town hall. Beneath the treacherous planks of their wooden stage, ascending, are Cui Jian, the “father of Chinese rock,” and his band members. The smoky, gritty atmosphere of the painting’s lower half starkly contrasts with the brightly lit stage and its “No Smoking” sign on the left.

    Wei’s painting perfectly captures the mood that swept over China in the first half of the 1990s, when Chinese rock captured young people’s imaginations with its themes of non-conformity and social alienation. Their fascination with foreign popular music and its affiliated political values was perhaps best expressed during the Tiananmen uprising, when Cui Jian’s Nothing To My Name became the student protestors’ unofficial anthem. Later, he would perform other political anthems wearing a red blindfold while on tour, causing the government to shut down his concert. Those years saw an incredible yearning among Chinese youth for freedom’s sights and sounds that has now been somewhat replaced by a preference for material success.

75

New Rhythm

1994
Oil on canvas.
35 3/4 x 28 in. (90.8 x 71.1 cm).
Signed and dated "Wei Rong [in Chinese and English] 1994" lower right.

Estimate
£25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for £24,000

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm
London