Born 1968, Sichuan, China
Lives and works in Beijing
The women painted by Feng Zhengjie are pop idols, glamorous faces from a futuristic pop world. All artists who have studied painting in China’s art academies, as Feng Zhengjie did, have an excellent training in realism but Feng rejected social realism and Western academic art and was influenced, instead, by the billboard images he saw when growing up in rural China. Developing as an artist during the turbulent years when China’s economy was changing and the country was opening up to the outside world, Feng Zhengjie made use of the access he had to Pop culture and the imagery associated with it and developed a manner of painting that includes a critique of the growth of consumer culture in modern China. The full frontal faces of Feng Zhengjie’s women are scaled up to huge proportions. They are idealised as young and beautiful but their luscious faces contain a strange far away look in their eyes that introduces a weird, enigmatic, quality to their pictorial presence and exudes commodified desire. This has been interpreted as an expression of the divide that exists between the inner life of the individual and the outer face that is turned to the world. The eyes of his portraits evoke a condition of vacuity, the women’s beauty is undermined by an apparent separation from reality into an artificial world. Nowhere is this more apparent than when Feng Zhengjie abandoned women to paint a series of portraits of Chairman Mao. With his empty eyes and florid bow tie, Mao becomes both enigmatic and an empty shell.