Duan Jianyu: New York, Paris, Zhumadian

Duan Jianyu: New York, Paris, Zhumadian

Concept: Zhang Wei, etc.
Editor: Hu Fang, Duan Jianyu
Design: Liu Zhizhi, Xia Yu, Meng Ke@MEWE Design
Publisher: Vitamin Creative Space
Size: 28.5×29cm
Page: 152
Year: 2008

In her fiction “New York Paris Zhumadian”, Duan Jianyu created a character Hu Xiang who came from the village, and wanted his ill father to stay in his dorm. He “is like that person in news who carries his father to class”, developing a new son-father relationship. “Hu Xiang feels badly when looking at father’s slightly hunched back and extruding joints due to overwork. Sometimes things can never be compensated for if not immediately. He wants to immediately carry father on his back to the Great Wall, to the seaside, to the Great Plains and even to Mount Everest!” They rediscover each other and happiness in life. They raise chickens in a quiet corner of the schoolyard and embark upon a journey of fantasy. They dream they walk around the world with the companions of a massage chair, chickens and air hostesses. 


Duan Jianyu portrays a dream of the world in the most mediocre daily life of China. It is embarrassing, incomplete, mixing the characteristics of the pre-modern and post-modern (just like the formations of “New York Paris Zhumadian”), but it is touching. When Hu Xiang has to graduate and he has to follow the dream he created for his village father, he must join the middle class in the city. This becomes the direct motivation of Chinese social development. After all, the world is not that far away from Hu Xiang’s dream. It seems to be right under his nose. 


The “New York Paris Zhumadian” painting series is innately connected to Hu Xiang’s story, as a platform to view the “world’s common scenery” and to present the mental boundary the mundane meets fantasy. The mediocre write an epic about daily life, about how they cannot bear the shock of reality. That enables us to review our fragile relationship our surroundings and accommodates us to rest and unwind a dream full of sweetness from the struggle with an optimistic reality. Ultimately, we cannot escape; we can only accept such mediocre poetry. This may be one of the most existentially frustrating delights of our generation.


(Hu Fang)













About Duan Jianyu

Born in 1970 in Zhengzhou, Henan province, Duan Jianyu graduated from the oil painting department at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art in 1995. She currently teaches at the South China Normal University of the Arts in Guangzhou.

Duan Jianyu’s work bizarrely bring us to a blurry and slightly annoying place. Her paintings recall a boundary that is mentally non-tangible in our daily lives. Yet they precisely recall the feeling of living in modern and contemporary China under globalization. Duan Jianyu strives for the most generic subjects matter and she delves into banal expression and style, and very much about life in the present tense. Her painting grows from its proto-concept and outline of different modes of living into a painted reality. Continuously impacted, resisted, altered and formed by the pictures that emerge from different influences, situations and awarenesses, this reality has the same complexity as the material reality before us. Duan Jianyu wanders the boundaries between abstraction and figuration, so-called narrative follows the logic of painting itself, and unknown experiences open up.


Photo by Feng Zhiyin

Image and Text: the shop, ©Authors, the shop, 2019


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