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Guo Jian

Guo Jian The day before I went away (from ‘The day before I went away’ series) 2008

Guo Jian | The day before I went away (from ‘The day before I went away’ series) 2008 | Purchased 2008. The Queensland Government's Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Guo Jian The day before I went away (from ‘The day before I went away’ series) 2008

Guo Jian
The day before I went away(from ‘The day before I went away’ series) 2008
Purchased 2008. The Queensland Government's Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

The day before I went away (from 'The day before I went away' series) 2008

Guo Jian’s painting The day before I went away 2008 draws upon his experiences as a youth during the Cultural Revolution and, later, as a military artist working for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The work is part of a larger series of the same title, which is based around depictions of uniformed soldiers and female entertainers. It plays with absurd tensions — the glamorous singer and grinning soldiers are set against a looming tank, while two of the soldiers practise Qi gong, an ancient form of martial art, with one taking cruel delight in shattering the stone hanging down his colleague’s back.

The heightened colour and flat surface of this painting owe much to Socialist Realism and propaganda art. Another influence is the epic movie versions of the eight ‘model operas’ of the Cultural Revolution, which showed proletarian characters fighting against an oppressive, traditionalist society. Filmed in lurid technicolour, these operas occupy a space between propaganda, Hollywood musical and traditional Chinese opera.