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Why Chinese Paintings Are So Large

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Among the most outstanding characteristics of recent painting in China is its size, an aspect some view as a function of individual volition or of market forces. Yet the question raised by the matter of large size has less to do with the absolute physical dimensions of a work than about the kinds of relationships initiated by these dimensions as well as by the relativisation of size. In short, the question of why Chinese paintings are so large is a question of scale, which, as the works of numerous artists, including Yan Pei-Ming, Zhou Tiehai, and Yun-Fei Ji, demonstrates is further tied to questions of social function and social value. This article is an extended rumination on the significance of scale and its capacity to frame the artwork as itself a function of responses between meaning and materiality.

Keywords: Cultural Revolution; Joan Kee; Socialist Realism; Yan-Pei Ming; Yun-Fei Ji; Zhou Tiehai; contemporary Chinese art; large format painting; portraits of Mao Zedong; size in art

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2012

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