Poster of Yan Cong - What to do when feeling dispirited

In 2016, MoCA Pavilion is going to launch MY Project (MoCA Young Artist Project), which will invite four young Chinese artists from various art field focuses, based on the characteristics and status of the artists, combine with MoCA Pavilion’s spatial characteristics, and start an exploratory experimental project. The first issue of MY Project will invite an artist, Yan Cong, to present an individual painting-based project.

Yan Cong’s artistic career began in boredom and loneliness, as a student wasting away in his dorm room. He surmounted these by drawing comics and illustrations and posting them online for a growing group of virtual friends. The imaginary landscapes he retreats into and characters that inhabit them blend his psychology and quaint nostalgia for childhood, with a longing for a humble home in the countryside. His adopted penname, yan cong, is Chinese for “chimney.”

Ever since last year, I have been brooding the idea of inviting Yan Cong to hold an exhibition at the MoCA Pavilion, whereas I was finally able to commence the planning process by early 2016. Yan Cong informed me that the exhibition at the MoCA Pavilion has been forcing him to take pains to get rid of his decadence. That is the reason we decided to use What to do when I’m feeling dispirited as the theme of this exhibition. Such a theme may reflect the recent or long-standing status of Yan Cong, who has been burying his head in the creation of comics or oil paintings. In his creation process, the artist is endowed a whole world where he can, with unfolded imagination, portray the interesting bits and pieces in his life or choose to capture the minutiae of a fleeting moment. This is, in the meantime, an energy-exhausting and detail-oriented process and one might be daunted and discouraged even by thinking that all these efforts are spent just to reserve the parts in which the viewers might be interested.

Yan Cong prefers an eclectic mix of elementary materials: ballpoint pen, newspaper collage, low- tech digital illustration, even needle and thread. His choice of mediums reflects the low-tech modesty and longing for an uncomplicated world that color his personal world. Through drawings and comics on paper of various sizes and quality, he invokes a lonely world of folkloric creatures, whose dreamlike adventures unfold in a narrative voice culled over a lifetime of avid comic reading. Much of the detail, the compositional language and depth in his two-dimensional works was informed by his training as a traditional painter of landscapes, although, this formal instruction is otherwise invisible. He shares new comics and illustrations online at his blog, “Soda Pop Stand”, and is a central member of the Green School Design Collective, organizing shows and greatly influencing the group aesthetic with his seemingly benign style.

Many of his drawings resemble children’ s book illustrations, but their tiny nuances betray the skill of their author, in the form of eyelashes, the twinkle in an eye, or the just-so buttons on a flowery dress. The evil characters have bullhorns, and good boys have rosy cheeks, pig-headed or dog-faced children are everywhere, they might tear out their heart (literally) for us, and the moon smiles down on it all. Although his works might be small, his repertoire is ample–and growing –each artwork becomes a frame onto Yan Cong’s private mythology. As it once did for him, Yan Cong’s work shelters us in a simpler world.

Mar 29, 2016

About the exhibition

Date: April 8 – May 2, 2016

Venue: MoCA Pavilion

Courtesy of the artist and MoCA Pavilion, for further information please visit www.mocashanghai.org.

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