Larger Than Life
An artist’s work is never done. Yan Pei-Ming has worked tirelessly for a month on his latest installation: 21 double-sided panels that stand before the French Pavilion at Expo 2010 Shanghai. Each panel is engraved with faces of Shanghai’s children on stainless steel hanging suspended over a pool of water.
An unassuming artist with a dual identity, Ming was born in Shanghai but schooled in Dijon, France. In his 30-year career, he continues to innovate, pushing the boundaries of art while creating works that reflect deeply on our humanity and mortality.
His art chronicles our times and reaches into our collective psyches. Ming’s works include paintings, some of which are larger-than-life, that stand as monuments to subjects as varied as Mao Zedong, Barack Obama, the Pope, and cultural icons like Bruce Lee.
Ming’s technical skill, depth and originality are substantial. In 2009, he was honored as the first Chinese artist to exhibit at the Louvre. The exhibit, Les funérailles de Monna Lisa (The Funeral of Mona Lisa), consisted of five paintings, one a “reinterpretation” of the Da Vinci classic with tones of somber gray and tears and streaks of paint running down the canvas. It stands imposingly in the middle of four other paintings, flanked on one end by Ming’s self-portrait in a dying pose and a portrait of his father on the other.
While best known for monumental oil paintings and portraits, Ming is also known for innovative artistic techniques. He typically paints with three colors—black, white and red—using large brushes and rapid brushstrokes that animate the pictorial space. The large, imposing images appear almost abstract when viewed up close but are penetrating figures from a distance.
His most recent painting, Christ Mort (Dead Christ), originally part of an exhibit that opened in New York this winter celebrating Dijon’s cultural heritage, will be in Dallas in October.
Ming grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. He began painting at a young age and, in 1980, left Shanghai to study in France at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Dijon. He has lived in Dijon ever since.
As a Chinese expat, Ming’s work speaks on an international scale, and the artist considers France and China equally important influences on his work. “I have often been told that I am an ambassador of China in France, and of France in China…” says Ming. “I’m probably the most Chinese painter in France and the most French painter in China.”