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Art exhibit critiques art education

By Wang Jie (Shanghai Daily)

08:36, April 25, 2012

THREE old friends from Shanghai, who played together as boys and went on to become successful artists, are staging an unusual exhibition of their art and, equally important, of their times, its ups and downs.

"A Story of Four Decades," a joint exhibition by painters Chen Danqing (also a writer and critic), Lin Xudong and Han Xin, is underway at the Shanghai Art Museum through May 3.

All three artists, now approaching 60, are examples of their generation and largely self-taught, spending the tumultuous years of the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976) learning painting by themselves, reading books and listening to classical.

The three used their time well and when China finally opened up, they went overseas to find a bigger world, eventually returning and establishing themselves as respected artists.

In addition to paintings, the exhibition includes sketches, drawings, collages, watercolors, old photographs, albums, letters, private items and descriptions from the three about their painting and their friends.

At the entrance to the exhibition is the blow-up of a black-and-white photograph showing the three old friends happily riding bicycles in the city's longtang or alleyways. Today most of those lanes and old buildings are gone, demolished to make way for modern urban construction.

"As if entering a time tunnel, visitors will witness the three self-taught boys who turned into successful artists, making us reflect on the approach to art education today," says Wei Xi, one of China's top art critics.

"When they were young, society was filled with political turmoil, but they hid themselves in the corner to listen to European classical music and they learned paintings by themselves. Those were the good old days!" Wei says.

"At that time we listened to music, read books and painted at Lin's apartment, imagining our own Europe," says Chen, a well-known artist and best-selling author.

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