Shen Jiawei: the Art of History

In the mythology of Maoist China, no event is more important than the Long March. It is the foundation story of the People’s Republic even if there is no separating fact from fiction.

The march began in October 1934 when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was driven out of the small republic it had established in the southern province of Jiangxi. To escape the encircling forces of the Nationalists, the Communists headed north by a circuitous route. They travelled for a year, finally settling in the northern town of Yan’an. Although all facts are disputed, the March allegedly covered 12,500 kilometres, with the original group of 100,000 participants being reduced to 30,000.

Shen Jiawei has taken up the story at the end of the Long March, in the years 1936-37. In Brothers and Sisters, he creates a mural-sized painting that brings together all the figures who played a role in the transformation of a weak, marginalised CCP into an all-conquering juggernaut. As one of very few artists anywhere in the world who still pursue the unfashionable genre of history painting, Shen has a long and fantastic story that waits to tell more people.

– written by art critic, John McDonald,

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