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Art exhibit critiques art education (2)

By Wang Jie (Shanghai Daily)

08:37, April 25, 2012

"Actually the European ideas in my paintings came from my friends. Today, looking back at the old works, I am amazed about the instinct of my friends toward art, especially in an era dominated by the Russian realistic art style," he adds.

Chen displays a 1978 notice by the Central Academy of Fine Arts, stating that foreign language test scores are not required for recruitment. Today, however, all applicants to art academies are required to have a minimal English-language score to be considered.

Back for nearly a decade from the United States, Chen is noted for his sharply critical views of art education in China that he says may actually drain talent, instead of encouraging genuine creativity.

"None of the three received formal art education when they were young," Wei says, "but they have always revered and had faith in art."

In the exhibition, all the materials and artworks are divided into periods - 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000. The subjects of their work also vary, from the depictions of peasants and soldiers to Tibetan landscapes and prints.

"The uniqueness of the show is that all the written materials on display are as important as the paintings and sketches," Wei says. "Like parts of a big installation piece, each painting, each private item and each paragraph is indispensable.

"Here, people, painting, epoch and memory collide. Private memories soon become a public collective memory for the viewers."

The dramatic changes of society seem encapsulated in the exhibition; it is more than a story of four decades for three people, but for their generation.

"The exhibition is like a book, and everyone can find a favorite or familiar chapter," says visitor Wan Lin, a professor in his 50s. "I am quite moved by what I have seen and read. This is an exhibition with soul. The protagonist of the exhibit is not the three artists, but instead, time."

Above a picture of the three men as youths, Chen has written: "This is not about fading youth. The three people are now approaching 60, but my friends tell me they want to paint for another four decades."

Date: Through May 3, 9am-5pm

Venue: Shanghai Art Museum, 325 Nanjing Rd W.

Tel: 6327-2829

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