Shen Jiawei: From Mao to Now

John McDonald’s essay, “Shen Jiawei: From Mao to Now” was published in the Sydney Morning Herald (November 2010).

“Shen Jaiwei was eighteen years old when the Cultural Revolution broke out. He was living in Jiaxing, not far from Shanghai, studying fine art in preparation for admission to college. Within a few months all the universities were closed and Jiawei was swept up in the excitement. He became a team leader in the Red Guards, producing propaganda paintings and portraits of Mao.

For many of his generation the beginning of the Cultural Revolution is remembered as an exhilarating time, but even in those days Jiawei was more interested in reading books than burning them. Within a year or so he had withdrawn from the movement and was making work for the Peoples Liberation Army. By 1970 he found himself in Heilongjiang province on the Russian border. There he worked as a propaganda artist, entering paintings in national competitions.

In 1974 his picture, Standing Guard for Our Great Motherland was praised by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, and acquired for the National Art Museum. When he saw the work on display in the museum Jiawei was shocked to find the soldiers’ faces had been repainted to make them look more heroic. In this new guise the painting was reproduced in poster form and sent all over China…”

Vermilion Art has exclusive rights to publish Shen Jiawei’s limited edition prints of his iconic painting, Standing Guard for Our Great Motherland (1974). The edition print of Standing Guard for Our Great Motherland will be featured in “No Point in Time”, curated by Dr Geoff Raby AO.

To read the full essay click here.

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