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Visual Arts

Yan Pei-Ming - Painter

Yan Pei Ming, Burgundy, France
Mao (2005) Oil on canvas 3m x 3m

For the last 30 years, Shanghai born painter Yan Pei-Ming has been living in Dijon. A child during the Cultural Revolution, he left his native land at the age of 20 and came to Paris.

In the summer of 2006 Yan’s name hit the headlines with an exhibition ‘La Force de l’Art’ in the Grand Palais in Paris when two large paintings were shown. One was of prime minister Dominique de Villepin, the other of Yonne child murderer Emile Louis. In the same way that Myra Hindley’s portrait was described as ‘an icon of evil’ at the Royal Academy in London, Yan Pei-Ming’s painting of Emile Louis caused outrage.

But the work of a painter is not just to produce decorative images of bunches of flowers and sunsets, it is to portray everyday life, disturbing as it may be. A painting cannot just mirror the charming aspects of life.

Yan Pei-Ming’s most famous portrait is of Chairman Mao in the 1990s. He works principally in black, white and grey, sometimes red. The canvases are huge, using a roller and brushes to cover the space. His portraits are very physical, with deft use of the brush to apply thick layers of paint, and the subject matter ranges from sculls to effigies and the dead.

But his portraits of his father, Mao and Bruce Lee are some of his most famous.
‘I ask myself why Andy Warhol never painted Bruce Lee’ he says, ‘I can only think he wasn’t chic enough, not middle class enough. He certainly interested me.’
In 2005 he was invited back to Shanghai for a retrospective exhibition of his work; time for a triumphant return to his homeland.

Pei-Ming is fascinated by the imagery which now dominates life be it in the press, on television or the internet. From his subject matter and style, comes drama and impact, recognized internationally.