The geography of the country at large is depicted in multi-coloured prints such as a detailed world map and Chen Yuping’s ‘My Hometown is by the Songhua River’ (1982). Soy bean plant is used to achieve an eye-watering vibrant red pigment seen in some of the images. In Huang Pimo’s ‘Small Street by the Yangzi River’ (1986) a bird’s eye view of a typical Southern town is shown with the still townscape offering a contrast to the bustle of the inhabitants’ lives. A modern take on the Chinese Printmaker’s reaction to their surrounding environment is given by Hong Tao in ‘Galloping Rhythm’ (2000). The impressionist use of colour blurs the image so it may be the refraction of garish industrial activity on a moving river.
The generic struggle of humankind gets a modern twist in Chen Long’s ‘State of Existence’ (2003). A bending DNA-shaped helix is in a tangle with a collage of small plastic faces made out of gas mask parts. A thick opaque pigment is used to create a defined abstract structure. Colours used within each work complement the subject matter to tell the full story that the painting depicts. Midnight blues, ice greys, muddy browns with a flash of red on a tattered flag is used in Chao Mei’s ‘The First Track of Footprints’ (1960). Here foot soldiers are walking on an oblique diagonal towards the bleak prospects of agricultural employment, working the land.
Four columns of brick-like marks represent the ‘Lost Letters’ in Xu Bing’s work (1997) but it is the gaps between these ‘Letters’, the negative space carved into the block work, that haunts. Many interpretations of this simple but profound piece are possible as is the case of the dynamic image of ‘Dancing on and beneath The Great Wall No. 1’. The simple, even, symbolic large wall portrayed in the piece hides a huge technical achievement. The waste-block technique employed to create this picture means only one block is used to fashion an outsize print. The dancing farmers have a curious ‘everyman’ cubist form. Perhaps it is down to the culture-traversing nature of craftsmanship that makes these prints and their deep pigments hold their message fast through the decades and time zones.