shu and joe

Daughters of China

Published on July 15, 2008

Just discovered the work of the Chinese American artist Hung Liu, whose new show, Daughters of China (Zhonghua nü’er), is opening at the F2 Gallery in Beijing this month. The paintings depict scenes from the Chinese film of the same name, directed by first time filmmaker Ling Zifeng in 1949, at the height of the Maoists struggle against the Nationalists for control over China. The stuff of heroic fables, the film is based on a novel recounted by a Communist activist named Yan Yiyan. In her novel, Eight Women Throw Themselves into the River (Ba nü toujiang), she recounts the story of eight women who drowned themselves to avoid becoming Japanese prisoners of war. Daughters of China was one of the first propaganda movies in China and sought to encourage support for the Communist cause.

What’s interesting about Hung Liu’s paintings is that they are interpretations of a historical moment, as defined by a film, which was itself based on a memoir. The truth of that moment becomes far less important when compared to the tales of heroism it inspired. Through the lens of these paintings, one begins to form an understanding of the historical place of women in China and their important, albeit sometimes superficial, role in shaping Communism.

Tis The Final Conflict No.2, 2007. Oil on canvas. 152.4 x 243.84 cm

Tis The Final Conflict No.4, 2007. Oil on canvas. 152.4 x 182.88 cm / diptych

No Saviour From On High Delivers #1 , 2008. Oil on canvas. 203.2 x 243.84 cm

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