On initial viewing, the N12 group - comprising 12 graduates of Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts - seems to be expressing more personal ideas than the more overtly politically focused work of many Chinese artists. One of the original founding members, Song Kun, explores her own and her generation’s emotions and personal concerns on canvases depicting crisp metallic surfaces, as if seen through a dreamlike fog.
But that's not to say Kun’s work doesn't reflect her country’s sometimes testy relationship with its artists. Writing for the LA Times, art critic Christopher Knight pointed out the subtle acknowledgement in it of the Chinese government’s watchful gaze on its creative community. Referencing work in her premier US show in 2009 at Walter Maciel Gallery, he wrote, “Nowhere [is Kun’s work] more engaged than in the triptych, where three panels show different views of a rock band playing on a club’s stage, fronted by a young female singer. In the lower left quadrant of each view, illuminated by stage lights that variously blare into your eyes, a uniformed soldier or policeman is seen from behind, intently watching the musical performance.”
Kun’s latest body of work will be shown at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing from this weekend. A Thousand Kisses Deep features a new cycle of 28 shimmering paintings, technical studies and a video installation. The works explore dual themes of carnality and spirituality. This most recent work demonstrates an exploration of abstract qualities, divided roughly between images of bodies and static organic forms, and dominated by shifts in light and dark. The personal moments explored in A Thousand Kisses become allegories for societal change and dissolution with figures portrayed as hovering in a dream world.