Printmaking as a conceptual device in contemporary Chinese art: A study of Xu Bing, Fang Lijun and Sun Xun
This thesis investigates the role of printmaking in contemporary Chinese art. It examines the use of printmaking as a conceptual device and critical tool through close readings of the works of three contemporary artists – Xu Bing, Fang Lijun and Sun Xun. Each represents a generation of artists who graduated from the printmaking department of China’s leading art academies in the post-Mao era.
This thesis intends to situate the artists and their works not only within the art-historical discourse of Chinese printmaking and contemporary Chinese art but also within the broader context of China’s sociopolitical, culture, and economic transformation. It examines the diverse ways in which these artists have engaged with and transformed the vibrant tradition of printmaking in their multimedia practices. It also explores their employment of the tangible medium of woodblock to alert audiences to complex ideas and provoke them into thinking more deeply about their lived realities.
By underscoring the innovative ways in which they have reimagined printmaking, this thesis aims to demonstrate how the medium has been provocatively questioned, subverted and extended. Despite printmaking’s pivotal role in shaping Chinese culture, its recognition as a vital medium in contemporary Chinese art has been largely overlooked in mainstream Euro-American presentation and discourses. This thesis hopes to fill this void and reposition printmaking as a vibrant and evolving artistic vocabulary of contemporary art in China.