Following a generation of artists, such as Ai Weiwei and Zeng Fanzhi, who rose to success as a result of their exploration and response to China’s post-Mao era social upheaval and who have established their megastar status at a time when fetishised in the West by attracting record-breaking sales, a new generation of Chinese artists is emerging to disrupt the industry.
Today’s emerging contemporary Chinese artists grew up in a very different China and have had unparalleled access to higher education in the arts, both at home and abroad. In the wake of China’s reform era, these artists have been exposed to a broad range of ideas from both inside and outside the country, most often with little or no restriction on their mobility. This has led to an increased sense of identity as global citizens and a renewed level of engagement with their surroundings, both at home and abroad. Their themes and subjects are different from the previous generation, such as the social and environmental impact of rapid urbanisation, and the rapid digital advance of an age when everything from socialising to shopping happens online. And several of these industry disruptors are thought-provoking young female Chinese artists who challenge these themes in eclectic and varied forms.
Read below to discover our top 5 Emerging Chinese Women Artists!
Miao ying (b.1985, shanghai)
Miao Ying is a contemporary artist and writer who works and lives between New York and Shanghai. She is best known for her projects about the Chinese Internet and society, such as The Blind Spot (2007) and Chinternet Plus (2016).
In her work, Miao Ying juxtaposes Western technology and ideology with contemporary Chinese culture, emphasising the new modalities of politics, aesthetics, and awareness that emerge as a result of technological representations of reality. Her work takes several forms, including websites, AI learning software, virtual reality, installations and paintings. By using different tools and technology available to her as an artist, she challenges the vitality that technology plays in our everyday lives and its influence on our understanding of space, time and reality. Miao Ying uses humour to explore her Stockholm Syndrome relationship with cultural and socio-political power, such as censorship and self-censorship, algorithmic filter bubbles, and political lifestyle ideologies.
Now, spending more time in the US where her work is attracting growing attention, Miao is among a generation of artists looking at the ways in which the digital realm limits human experience. Her most recent solo exhibitions include Pilgrimage into Walden XII at the OVR:Pioneers, Art Basel (2021), Hardcore Digital Detox at the M+ Museum, Hong Kong (2018) and Miao Ying：Chinternet Plus at the New Museum, New York (2016).
NABUQI (B.1984, INNER MONGOLIA)
Originally from Inner Mongolia and graduated in 2013 from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing where she is currently based, Nabuqi is a Chinese female artist who focuses on the connections between objects, space and surrounding environments.
In works ranging from handmade sculptures to installations built by assembling ready-made materials, Nabuqi creates environments that question our perceptions of the world and engage the viewer in a game of spatial politics. On the one hand, a mix of mirrors, lighting, fake plants, railroad rails, and a life-size copy of a cow and industrial materials encompass settings in and around which the active, observing subject’s spatial politics are delineated. On the other hand, Nabuqi’s bronze and aluminium sculptures reintroduce her subjects’ freedom, emphasising their changing relationship with the body. By doing so, she departs from a focus on objects and questions their relationship with the human body, as well as the variations of individual perceptions within different spaces and environments.
Her recent exhibitions include Noire Lumière at the HOW Art Museum (Shanghai, 2020), Study of Things. Or A Brief Story about Fountain, Brick, Tin, Coin, Wax, Stone, Shell, Curtain and Body at the Guangdong Times Museum (Guangdong, 2020) and the 58th Venice Biennale (Venice, 2019).
CUI JIE (B.1984, SHANGHAI)
The Shanghai-born and based, Cui Jie specialises in oil painting and 3-D printed sculpture. Cui’s collection of work is defined by her explorations of space and dimensionality, which are manifested in her geometric renderings of Chinese cityscapes.
Drawing from her own experiences living in three of China’s rapidly changing metropolises—Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Beijing, Cui’s blending of forms and emphasis on unity emerge from conceptions of the ideal in Chinese history. The theme of Chinese industry and the role of the worker, for instance, appears in her repeated subjects of government buildings, extending her works into the realm of political commentary on socialism, nationalism, and collectivist propaganda while also challenging contemporary building practices of rapid urbanization: the razing of village and suburban communities to erect residential and commercial districts. Moreover, Cui’s intricately layered work spans a wide array of materials, including acrylic, spray paint, and colored pencil. Occasionally, the artist even works on torn-out sheets of draft paper. As a result, many of her works obscure the delineation between utopian and dystopian landscapes, questioning upgrade culture and contemporary practices of cultural preservation.
Cui has exhibited in London, Shanghai, New York, Beijing, and Hong Kong. Her work has been collected by the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo and the Rubell Museum in Miami.
LI SHURUI (B.1981,CHONGQING)
Self-taught artist from Chongqing, China, Li Shurui is one of the leading emerging female Chinese artists whose work is inspired by her experiences as one of the few women who live in Huangshan mountain village.
Graduated in 2004 at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, the artist depicts scenes which are filled with natural beauty and color to draw attention to the isolated community of Huangshan that lacks basic necessities like running water. Best known for her large-format, captivating acrylic-on-canvas compositions executed with the airbrush, which explore an abstract concept of light, guaranteeing that audiences will never look at light and color in the same way again. Li also professes a close relationship with the theme of “space”, as the immensity of her artworks allows viewers to feel completely surrounded and fully engaged. Often in large formats, her paintings are powerful not just because of their impressive scale, but the immersive atmosphere they have created and their ability to arouse one’s imagination. She ultimately attempts to use light and space to capture an atmosphere and state of mind in a way that leaves people with a strong emotive impression rather than a concept or idea that must be dealt with logically.
Li has exhibited widely both in China and around the world, namely Art Dubai, Dubai (2012), Today Art Museum, Beijing (2011), Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai (2011). She is currently living and working in Beijing.
geng yini (b.1982,shenyang)
Born in Shenyang in Liaoning Province, Geng Yini is a young Chinese artist whose work is characterised by a multitude of components ranging from religion to humour, politics to sex, and combines cultural symbols to imagine new social ideologies and conventions.
A graduate of Lu Xun Academy in Shenyang, Geng’s gooey paintings, with their numerous surfaces and schizophrenic narratives, are evidence of our relationship with computers and technologies. In her works the meaning is secondary, what matters is the lighthearted celebration of unrestrained plurality which ultimately gives Geng’s work its edge. In her canvases there are still some visual cues particular to Social Realism – with its schematic figures, textured surfaces and earthy tones punctuated with more strident hues. Also, by adding text across her works she refers to not only the Chinese tradition of embellishing paintings with poetic inscriptions but also the government-sponsored banners that, still today, punctuate everyday life in China.
Finally, imbued with a compelling disconnect between protagonists, setting, and narrative, these works have sparked her appearance in numerous solo and group exhibitions in China and beyond in recent years—including Shanghai’s Antenna Space and BANK, and most recently Beijing’s Today Art Museum.
This list of top 5 female Chinese artists has been compiled by Image Curators Advisory, an agency that specialises in providing art consulting services to artists in all career stages. Let us know if you agree or have other artists that you think should have made the list by leaving a comment below!