Born 1965 in Jiangsu Nanjing, Shen Jingdong, who served for sixteen years in the Chinese military, merges Pop Art with Marxist propaganda. Shen’s paintings of Mao’s soldiers and labors are playful and animated. They are not real but rather perfect robots that have been produced as a toy, stature or mantle piece. These souvenirs of the past represent the historical imagery of Communist China but also newly developing economic future.
Shen Jingdong’s work reflects the vulnerability of the venerable by examining heroes of China’s Cultural Revolution, especially members of the military. Serving in the military drama troupe for 16 years provided the artist with ample inspiration and exposure to military life. The plastic, toy soldiers Shen paints is in contrast to the observed humanity from his own experience, but allows one to view these cultural icons as government play things gazing out with placid, unquestioning expressions.
This mix of ideological and consumerist subject matter definitively places Shen’s work alongside works by Takashi Murakami, and the post-pop period, attempting to digest the nation’s transition into a consumer-driven society.
Shen Jingdong’s critical examination of the validity of Communist ideals has not gone unnoticed by China’s central government. Two years ago, one of his installations grouped Chairman Mao with political dictators of other countries and was promptly banned from a major Beijing international art festival. Despite the controversy surrounding his work, the China National Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Retreat Museum in Singapore have been collecting his work. Shen Jingdong has also been well-received both critically and at auction.
Inteview Shen Jingdong