This lecture introduces the works of an underground art group named Wuming (meaning No Name) active in Beijing between 1973 and 1981. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76), socialist realism remained the artistic orthodox and western modernism was strictly forbidden. How could an alternative modernist Chinese art movement grow in such an environment? The solidarity of the Wuming group provides an excellent example. Painting landscapes, portraits, and still lifes in oil, the Wuming artists rejected academic conventions and shunned political propaganda art, eking out an early form of Chinese modernism still little known. As a group, their alternative, counter-culture identity also exemplified the underground movements that emerged in the closing stages of the Maoist era. Samples of Wuming art will be shown to illustrate how they were produced in the living, social and historical context of that period.
Dr. Wang Aihe holds a PhD in East Asian Languages, Civilizations and Social Anthropology from Harvard University. She is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Chinese at The University of Hong Kong. Her representative publications include "Cosmology and Political Culture in Early China" (Cambridge University Press, 2000, 2006), and the "Wuming (No Name) Painting Catalogue", 13 volumes (The Hong Kong University Press, 2010). Born in Beijing, she was assigned to a plastic factory in 1971, working there until 1983. During that period, she met other self-taught oil painters and they eventually formed the Wuming group. Her paintings have been shown in Wuming exhibitions in 1974, 1979, 1981, 2006-07, and 2011.