1. Post Eighties
“Ten years makes a generation”，probably comes from the sociology research of the social situation after the Second World War. Today this concept has become the internationally popular methodology for analyzing cultural phenomena. No doubt that “Post Eighties” are based on the time condition which is 1980, however “this generation” refers more to its cultural uniqueness and value. A few years ago，the society’s attitude towards those “Post Eighties” was a kind of discrimination regarding them as an ignorant, selfish and collapsed generation. Every “new generation” is growing up in the process of revolting against the “old generation”. In the eyes of each “old generation”“the new generation” is always “a rebel”，this is the law of the development history. In recent years，the attitude of the society towards those “Post Eighties” has become quite positive，seeing them as sympathetic, courageous and a rising generation, especially stressing their outstanding behavior during “the Olympic Games” and “Wenchuan” earthquake，a sort of sequel from the epoch of encouraging “sacrifice”. In my view, neither the “discrimination”nor the “praise” is a real understanding and acceptation in terms of social and cultural phenomena.
In my contact with the “Post Eighty” artists and their works，I sense that they feel that their hearts “belong to nowhere”. I feel their desire for communication and understanding. Through the current exhibition, I try to understand and to be closer to the “Post Eighties” and the “Post Eighty Art”.
2. Spring Chill
For those who have spent the winter in the north, the “spring chill” must have engraved on their minds.
After suddenly getting warmer, the weather has turned cold again. It is cold one minute and hot the next, difficult to adapt to these sudden and constant changes. The chill is penetrating into one’s heart, hard to explain. For many people, spring chill is harder to bear than the bitter cold of winter.
The 1980s were called “spring”. This is quite justified. Having experienced the political “calamity” which is a long and cold icy winter，finally the Chinese people feel the spring in the air again which they have not felt for ages。“Post Eighties” is considered as a happy generation born and growing up in the spring breeze.
However，it takes more than one cold day for the river to freeze three feet deep，it takes more than one day to “de-freeze” the society。The old generation has gone through an extremely cold winter which has left them psychological shadows with gloomy scarred memories. They complain that the new generation is “living in the happiness without appreciating their chance”，they neglect the harm of “spring chill” to this new generation。These young people don’t have any idea of “warming oneself in early spring”，they are like “clothed in spring costumes for the winter”，that is why they feel so “cold”.
“In the Post Eighty Art”，the shrinking，grey, chilly、yellow and old tone，make them look “cold to the bone”. This reminds me of the “spring chill”，a way to share their experience.
3. The Only Son & the Only Daughter
“Post Eighties” were the first generation under the newly installed “birth control” policy; they are almost a synonym for，“the only son & the only daughter”. The discrimination against “Post Eighties”，comes mainly from the problems linked to “the only son & the only daughter”，regarding them as selfish、cold、undisciplined、pampered since childhood etc. Indeed, with no brothers and sisters therefore no potential internal competition, most of these “the only son & the only daughter” have been indulged in a rather favorable material life, over protected and spoiled. However, no brothers and sisters also means having no playmate. Drowned in the parents repeated “this is all for your own good” they are like greenhouse flowers，grown up in a thoughtfully and satisfactorily “arranged” environment，they feel extremely lonely and frail at heart。
In “Post Eighty Art”，there are almost no big social subjects，no complete scenes，no bright colors，very few bustling activities and noisy crowds，mostly there are only the lonely “oneself” image，no high spirits，even no clear expressions，all alone、dumb and absent minded。
4. Internet Life
No generation relies on Internet so much as the “Post Eighties”. They have grown up together with Internet which has occupied more than half of their adolescent life，providing them with the maximum sense of liberty and security. If in real life they have complexes with their self identity，they could relieve themselves completely in the invented world. In the fictitious Internet world──they could play several different individuals, creating a perfect oneself or an entirely new oneself. They could find their self realization through Internet--writing articles, making magazines, issuing comments, meeting friends，creating all kinds of art work especially work of literature. “Post Eighties” as a literary concept，its literary phenomena becoming more “influential”, benefits considerably from the Internet. The invention of oneself conceals the real identity，making it possible to avoid constraint of the social laws and rules. In this way the individual freedom and intelligence have obtained the maximum possibility. They feel confident and at ease in the Internet. But once faced with the real world，they become detached, nervous, slow witted, therefore，many of them “live” day and night in the Internet, reducing to minimum their contact with the real world.
I once had a “Post Eighty” young friend who estimated that the net world would eventually replace the real world. In my net chat with him, I said that the human body is an object, its need for food, drink, sleep or going to toilet cannot be satisfied by imagined means, it can only be obtained from the real world. He replied that his material need is the minimum: a computer（certainly connected with Internet）, a bed, one piece of bread and one cup of water every day, this is all. I said that even if this is only the basic need, it is supplied by your parents，one day when you have to earn this by yourself; you will understand that every one of us must pay a heavy price in the exchange with the real world.
Nowadays, when “Post Eighties” approach “thirty –age for establishment”, they must go into the society to build up their career, setup their own home and bring up the next generation. They find that there is not so much space left for them in the real world. Of course the economy is developed, but what they have economized over the year is only enough to buy an apartment of four or five square meters. Higher education is popularized, but with their many degrees they still cannot find adequate jobs. Sex is freer, but not much chance for them to flirt. Tides of information but both “rubbish” and “cream” are tiring us down……They feel that “braving the society for several years，they have achieved nothing, no money no power”，they exclaimed that “when trousers lose the belt, they begin to understand what ‘rely on’ means”. The real world is surely full of bustling activities，they have lost freedom in the noise，life is surely beautiful，but this “beauty” has nothing to do with them. “Post Eighties” borrow the character“囧”，to express their sentiments in the face of the reality, they feel entangled, embarrassed, depressed, lost and bored……All this is represented in the “Post Eighty Art”.
6. Strange Reality
Often “Post Eighties” cannot be on intimate terms with or lack enthusiasm for the reality
Li Binyuan’s “will tell her everything here”, represents the “scene” of construction sites we see everywhere, at this moment, it is as silent as death. The structure of the painting is like that of a wide angle, the building under the construction is as close as before our eyes, stretching towards the finished buildings far away, it looks endless and boundless. The telephone box in use on the right, the “zebra lines” with the curious standing horse on the left, are all “facing” the outside of the painting, abrupt and isolated, it looks more like a “scene” suddenly dead at a moment.
Zhan A's carefully depicted security entrance, plane wings, white horses and shadows are all bits and pieces of what we catch a glimpse of unconsciously in daily life, neither complete nor connected logically by time and space.
Yang Liang’s mountains, waters, grasslands and swimming pools appear to be close to “nature”, but they are too green, orderly and quiet, like “man-made”, the human beings among these scenes but disconnected with the them.
Their description of the real scenes is so strange that it reveals that fact that they are so estranged with each other.
7. Second Hand Repainting
“Post Eighties”s understanding and comprehension of the world comes mostly from various sources of information especially the visual images which are already sifted by those making them therefore become “second hand”, no distinction of ancient or modern times , Chinese or Western, not classified according to categories, no context，all received in a parallel manner. As a result, the original meaning has almost disappeared. They could use the “second hand” information, re-choose, re-organize, re-paint according to their own will. This is a common technique for the Post Eighties.
Zhang Chunying uses the elements from ancient painting: mountain, water, brooks, bamboo, lotus, trees, boat, tower，painting them as “handicraft objects”, then organizing them as “new scenes”--mountain in the low lying water, tree inside the cross section of the mountain，in the square man made pond, squatting the mountain, berthing the boat, planting bamboo, inserting lotus, all in an awkward position, looking so embarrassed, the world is like an “arranged” absurd potted landscape.
Inside Guo Buqi’s “room” we find all kinds of things──fake mountain stones, machine spare parts, dolls, jewelry box, globe model, ancient tower, red-crowned cranes specimen、steel balls、eyes、curtains，even as concrete as “uncle’s room, tables, rocking chairs, cupboards, TV, gas stove, objects for massage etc，all look scattered，but respecting the order of another “realm”
The background of Zhang Xiao long’s paintings is composed of “green pines and verdant cypresses” together with “dropping ink rain”, adults become children like images pupil of eyes “pitch black” but the look dull, holding objects only children hold: big strange fish, huge mushrooms, giant stocking coming from a piece of “news” from the Internet, these different information are painted together without betraying any intentions, are both “normal” and weird.
Zhai Jian chose some “reality representing” images, like digging mines, pulling carts, walking person holding hands of children, all put together in the same painting, but the original background scene erased，or sometimes replaced by another scene. For example, an interior collective photo belonging to the mother’s generation is standing on the spacious horizon，the back view of each ordinary elderly is against or a yellow and thin chimney, or a sapling，or a series of blown toy. In each personage or back scene, the original characters of the images remain but they are not related.
The animated images of Lu Tingting include various “elements” striding across time and space，a girl with ancient identity but modern expression，crosses over twining flowers, silk striped balls, cloud lines, ocean waves and other “classical patterns”. They start from the original point, spiraling upwards，then descending ，a thousand hand Buddha, flying Apsaras, various legendary animals are all passing by. The girl is flying to avoid them, she cannot stop for a single moment, she cannot hesitate for a second, she is flying beautifully but dangerously. This is like a simulation of life experience. Another girl with elderly person expression but a primary school identity is dancing “broadcast gymnastics”，each move of her has left traces similar to “thread like curls”。 These thread like curls then change into modern “classical patterns”──five pointed star, Taiji pattern、keys，even portraits of Lei Feng，the interaction between action and pattern is both accidental and inevitable. It is similar to the relationship between human action and the result.
8. Making Fairy Tales
It is said that “Post Eighties “prefer animals to children. When inventing a fairy tale，the main character is a pet，it is like a “separate body “of oneself，to demonstrate and experience various non realist feelings, isn’t it pleasant？
In the fairy tale of Tian Ye，the main character is a somewhat western style, gentleman like and gloomy “dog”。When he goes out （perhaps seeing girlfriend），he is dressed in western costumes and leather shoes，but sitting meditating alongside the railway，letting trains approaching gradually，when he plays a clown, he looks very serious，behind his back there is no stage but the sky with rolling clouds. When he is alone, he is naked squatting on the top of the wall，a potted flower is flourishing in the window hole……the tone of the painting is chilly and sentimental，lonely but romantic。Another main character of another fairy tale is “rabbit”，male rabbit and female rabbit，simple minded and pure，living the life typical of western prince and princess. The painting methods are as refined as those for the picture story book。
Wang Jianming’s fairy tale is a story of “ideal island”，cold and icy，clean and beautiful，the main character is a red faced “little person” of whom we can only see the tip of nose. He is like a traveler from the south pole，when arriving here, no more desire to move on. The painting is small，the methods similar to those for animated or picture story book, reminding me of an animated film called《BINGO》。
The main character of Xiao Jiluo is an animal similar but not too similar to a bear, like a hairy toy with a heart flying as high as sky but with a fate as frail as paper，experiencing solitude in the high altitude。
Hou Wen’s fairy tale has a lot of childhood memories，the main character being a girl between a real girl and a doll. She is pure and frail, holding a big fish head, mouthing a suckle feed, lonely and lost，but when eating wolf’s milk or embraced by huge frog，she feels dangerously secure。Her sculpture patterns are based on realist principles，but intentionally erasing “realist ”details，for example the bones , veins and muscles detailed patterns in order to exaggerate the feeling of “doll”，light grey color makes the fairy tale lonely and sad.
The fairy tale world of Yi Mengmeng is some “toys”，the main character is a wooden horse rocking chair，panda、grass and mud horse，sweets wrapping paper，the painting looks quiet and happy and even a little “baby”. When looking closely we find some very tiny lines ，these beautiful thin lines are prisoning the panda and the grass and mud horses so that they cannot move. The fashionable thin needle is cutting the sweet wrapping paper causing pain, the mouth of a gun is pointing at the pink wooden horse，if the wooden horse refuses to be manipulated（immobile ），it can only “die completely”──flatting the arching line at the bottom。They are in the same situation as“囧”.Yi Mengmeng’s expression is refined and profound。
9. Self Observation and Portrayal
The estrangement and helplessness faced with the reality bring the “Post Eighties”to consciously or unconsciously stress their “auto observation and portrayal”. In “Post Eighty Art”，we find in great numbers works using “oneself” or “similar to oneself（the familiar same aged）”to do an imitation of the existence of oneself. As every “self “is different，therefore the mood expressed is quite varied.
The sculpture of Feng Yiying is an imitation of herself，cold grey body，mostly shrinking and recoiling，either sitting on simple bed，or squatting in a corner，or besieged in a bird’s cage，with a muddled expression。The standing sculptures are also having shrugging shoulders, hooking backs, shriveling with face covered，each sculpture corresponding to an outlined silhouette on the wall ，a prolonged shadow connecting the main sculpture and the silhouette. The atmosphere is permeated with loneliness and and the sense of being lost.
Dong Yan’s “self” is a “handsome guy”，the background is invariably Shanghai where he has lived──the past glory and the present messy villas and streets, closed lanes, new style bus stops and playing children. The “handsome guy” is dressed in fashionable clothes，but covering face with high collar sweater，carrying an umbrella 、drooping shoulder，as if afraid of being connected to the real world, in absolute solitude. The treatment similar to that of monotone but colored computer engraving，makes the painting real but not real.
Shi Miao’s “self “is almost completely immerged in the mud, in dire straits and depressed，close to madness. Pang Bin’s “self” looks like being harmed by something unnamable, seeking comfort not at all romantically in the mysterious forest, flowers and grass, dried out wells. Li Xiaobing and Zhou Dong directly use methods similar to surrealism to exaggerate the instant mood of their similar aged ──lost, bored, cold and depressed.
Xia Yu depicts some persons and events in daily life- scraping, playing chess, sleeping on one’s side, young people, poets etc. Mostly we see the crawling backs, the front face is always a person with thin brows and thin eyes resembling the artist himself the expression of whom is between intelligence and stupidity. Xia Yu’s portraying methods are “in part like traditional freehand Chinese painting”，refined and sentimental. The whole painting is poetically dim and senseless.
Lu Xi’s paint the photos when she was a child, herself, mother, group photo with mother，pure and mild typical of the 1970s，even with a “nostalgic” feeling，rarely beautiful. Tang Yi’s facing the wall and standing penalty come from deep childhood memories. His methods are very special: three dimensional “self” image made from clothes connected and separated from the painting at the same time，the pretty and soft decorative nature of the clothes has reduced the cruelty of these memories.“Children do not know sadness”，even if it is harm，there is certain sweetness in the memory.
10. Narrative Nature
Writing until now, I am suddenly aware that it is the first time for the past 20years since I started writing art critic that I am using “narrative “language. I also realize that “Post Eighty Art” uses “narrative”language much more than the “abstract”“feeling” and “concept”。What I call “narrative” does not mean ordinary story telling，it is more of a “personal” expression of life existence。History and social elements have caused main stream gigantic narration，squeezing the individual expression to the minimum. The “Post Eighties” have grown up with Internet they systematically abandon the visions recognized by the main stream and the orthodox language modes. They resort to their own feeling, telling of their own stories， creating their own happiness and obtaining the psychological and spiritual satisfaction they cannot obtain in the real life.
May 31, 2011 in Xiao Pu, Song Zhuang
Translated by Chen Mo