Back Bloody Romance and Male Confusion ---------Review on Deng Jianjin’s Oil Paintings By Wang Lin

Deng Jianjin’s works rarely touch the social issues. Either the screen constituting screens or the concrete images of actions, even the men, women and children holding pistols, has no relation with the campus shootings frequently happened in theUnited States. What throughout his works is the desire of peep, the peep of man to himself and the peep of the opposite sex though the self. Therefore, his painting always has a quality of self-examination and inner monologue, full of spiritual anxiety and the obsession of desire, indulging in sentiment without solution, unable to restrain from continuing.

The critics of Contemporary art rarely research male due to the challenge of feminism. In fact, the male consciousness is also outstanding in painting, and often profoundly touches the issue of cultural identity and power relation. In as sense, the general discussion of Deng Jianjin’s theme-trend and language characteristic will easily lead to the consideration of him as an modern painter of expressionism, but it’s not in line with the situation of his creation. Deng Jianjian resents the formalism of personalized style, and he doesn’t use some formal pattern to gain success. His changing artistic appearances make us feel the possibility of neo-expressionism in Chinese contemporary art. For Deng Jianjin, appropriately segmenting “modern” and “contemporary” is necessary, because the issues he touches are the unavoidable spiritual issue and cultural issue in the contemporary cultural context. 

The alleged “neo-” of Neo-expressionism lies in the opening quality of expression, namely, some kind of change of subjective consciousness. The expressions of modernism come from the establishment, integration and heroization of subjectivity and it comes from the dualistic conflict of subjectivity and objectivity.  In other words, the problem is objective and the expression is subjective. However, in the contemporary culture context, the relationship between subject and object is taking subtle and profound changes. As the traditional culture is no longer the obstacle of art but the source of art, the liberation of personality is no longer the value of art but the starting point of art; formal creation is no longer the goal of art but the condition of art. The contemporary art has lost the opposite side of constant revolution, and it can only locate in the issues of reality, culture and spirit of the current society. The issue itself has become the media connecting subjectivity and objectivity, that is, the issue not only belongs to object but also belongs to subject. Subject is involved in the issue. It’s part of the issue. Subject exists in the symbiotic nature of the issue and is of being an accomplice. It exists in the situation of the issue and the process of interaction. The expressionism of Deng Jianjin’s works should be understood in this way. His change on creation running away from the self demonstrates the openness of the alleged “expression” of neo-expressionism.

The expressions of Deng Jianjin’s works on sex, eroticism, violence, abuse and hurt are extraordinary. Either in the early works that are dry, scorched, knot-like, and uncomfortable to visual psychology, or in the later screens that are thin, flowing, with the illusion like sleepwalking, he can find specific harmonization and coherence in the awkward shape, blunt color and unexpected embellishment (bloodshot, scar, meteor, message, floating lines, etc.). It results in the depth of visual stimulation and the strength of spiritual shock. Meanwhile, it brings a straight and vivid sense to the screens. The provocation of its works to the response of body is either of theme or of form. It always makes people feel the unspeakable ferment of physical function.

       This physical sense draws the spiritual issue, because in the intersexual relationship, the male sexual psychology is not only inborn and natural, but also it’s the result of cultural tradition, social customs and family education, an appearance of power relation. Moreover, the commercial popularity of female images in today’s society strengthens the dominated power of men to women. In Deng Jianjin’s works, either in the heterosexual or in the homosexual relationships, the women pose a erotic and seductive posture: standing breast, turnup buttocks and opening nude legs, as if waiting for something. Nevertheless, men are often locating in the bursting movement or quiet expressions, keeping initiative and self-maintained. Obviously, Deng Jianjin didn’t dodge his possessive desire of sex life and sexual fantasies as a male artist. In Engels’the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,this possessive desire is described as, “Male never give up the requirement of the facilitation of group marriage.” However, the problem is not whether the male desire is legitimate or not, but the male-centered relationship is either the oppression of women or the constraint of men. More profound is that rather than generally explaining the inequality between men and women, this power relationship is about in the asymmetric state incapable of gaining universality and homogeneous equality, whether and how we face the correlation of desire, violence, craziness and crime. Deng Jianjin once said, “What we see is the psychological movement, irrational, subconscious or behavioristic, bred out of the deep human nature. It is also a split phenomenon of human nature wandering between reality and illusion” , “I express contradiction and embarrassment of desire between the crime existing in society and the non-criminal actions of human nature.” Undoubtedly, this disclosure of subject has the clinical experience which is personal and male. It does not claim the right ideas to describe the Utopia of the equality of men and women, but it reveals the problem which is social and personal, objective and subjective, as well as male and female, opening its privacy and secret to manifest art or to become art by manifestness. Such self-questioning and self-disclosure demonstrate the men’s spiritual confusion in the face of desire-reflection and morality examination in the contemporary context and power relation. Deng Jianjin is so frankly explicit and penetrated, which makes people nervous and anxious. Even the spiritual burnout of Eros and the fear of sex produced by the fatigue of the consumed body in his recent paintings also deeply touch people.

     To my point of view, fundamentally, human being doesn’t have solution to the three big questions: life and death, richness and poorness, and men and women. God gives people infinite desire but finite means. This is the fate of original sin. There’s no way to escape. We don’t need to deceive ourselves by the enlightenment of equality, freedom and love, or the beautiful ideal of the one world or the theory of distribution according to need. We live in a world full of trouble. We can only toss back and forth between the physical satisfaction and psychological hurt, as well as the happiness of consuming and the spiritual pain. Art cannot and will not become some good remedy to save the world. It just makes us to find some real things of history in the aesthetic illusions. Deng Jianjin’s paintings make us deeply feel that—when the satisfaction of body and the pleasure of consuming are controlled by the power of others (commercial, public and collective powers), the expressions of psychological hurt and spiritual pain become so important to personal life. His works make us agree with the requirement of self-examination on spirit and self-growth, and the necessity personal exchanges and communications. It contains the expectation of people’ being. Although it’s the virtualized bloody romance out of the male confusion, it after all is the sunset which makes us so beautiful.


------- With this kind of attractive and the poetry of the end of the world, Deng Jianjin’s enough for being as a contemporary painter. 


April 8, 2008
Peach Hill Side

SichuanAcademyof Fine Arts