Monday, October 5, 2009

The Five Capital Executions in China

Firing Squad
Drawing and Quartering

"The Five Capital Executions in China" by Chinese 2D artist Zhi Lin is a sublime work of art created to make us question the things we let the world get away with. Zhi Lin grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. He remembers people only being able to wear the colors green and blue with no designs or patterns, people being tortured by Mao's Red Guard, and his father being dragged away to serve time in prison for rumors of having possessed books. Looking at these pieces, we are made to feel dirty and guilty. You can feel the forced tension that Zhi Lin must have felt every day of his childhood. Zhi has used the talents he honed at the China National academy of Fine Arts and the Slade School of Fine Art at the University of London where he received his Bachelor's degree and Master's degree in Fine Arts respectively. This artwork was not only brilliantly done, but was painstakingly done in the process as well. Each painting started as a carefully arranged thumbnail, progressing to a full size drawing, which was then painted. The immense 12 x 7 ft size of these paintings give you an awesome God-like view of the scenes. You are both above the crowd and part of it. There are people that look back out at you in each picture, begging you to understand, to see. The paintings are done in classic Chinese scroll format with watercolor on canvas and ribbon, except for Draw and Quartering which is charcoal. There is an incredible amount of light and color involved, making you want to enjoy the feeling of revelry, but your eye is constantly chastised and brought back to the torture involved in each capitol punishment. These executions are made to be spectacles, made to involve and entertain the crowd, and through Zhi Lin's genius, you are made to be part of that crowd. The artist believes that there is a role in society for art, and that art can be used to prevent the kind of things that his work is shedding light on. He is looking at the role of humanity and the abuse of power by those in authority. Once you realize that, you are forever changed, you are never clean, you can't ignore the wrong and monstrous injustice you see in the artwork, just as you find will now find it tough to ignore the wrong in injustice you see every day. Zhi Lin's painting will change your life.

Images courtesy of HowardHouse.Net/Artists

Works Cited:
Sheila Farr review. Seattle Times Entertainment Section. March 30, 2007
Zhi Lin- Interview with Per Contra Archives. July, 2006
Zhi Lin- Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia. August 20th, 2009

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