Yue Minjun

Between Men and Animal, 2005
Oil on canvas
280cm x 400cm

Yue Minjun

Born 1962, Heilongjiang Province, China.
Lives and works in Beijing, China

Yue Minjun’s painting and sculpture always feature a figure or figures with the same laughing face. The face is modelled on his own so, in a sense, Minjun is forever painting a self-portrait. However, as a result of its repeated appearance, the laughing face becomes a serial image that provides an account of the condition of everyman.

Minjun’s toothy faces have been likened to the expansive smiles of fashion models or faces in a toothpaste commercial but, although they have their origins in advertising and are based upon a knowledge of western pop art, Yue Minjun draws upon the Christian iconography of the Renaissance as well as that of Chinese folklore. Rather than being a source of comfort, the smiles on Yue Minjun’s characters embody a sense of threat, their laughter is not an expression of happiness but mania, a psychosis that mocks the viewer and separates the subject from the norm. His painting Between Men and Animal depicts a crowd of identical laughing figures. From each of their heads sprout two little horns and they assume the personas of mythical demons. The title of the painting suggests a relationship between higher human nature and the baser condition of animals.

These figures express a powerful sense of male virility and sexuality. Each wears a black singlet that contrasts vividly with its bright pink skin, black mouth and gleaming white teeth that is enhanced by their exaggerated size on the large canvas.