From Comics to Paintings



24 July 2018, Beijing — The third dual exhibition of Yan Cong and Wen Ling, From Comics to Paintings, will take place in Star Gallery from 28 July to 14 September 2018, preceded by Great Heat in 2011 and Vernal Equinox in 2014.


Comics have existed as a type of drawing for a long time. Many an artist, past and present, at home and abroad, has been closely involved with this art form in their painting. In today’s China, however, comics are having a rather tense if not hostile relationship with paintings, especially those labeled as the “high art”. This situation has something to do with the overall explosion of “indie painting” in China over the past several years. What kind of comics would become a positive element in the transformation of contemporary painting? How would an artist get inspired by comics during the process? Yan Cong and Wen Ling will answer these questions in regard to the subject — “From Comics to Paintings” — with their latest canvases of the past three years.

CAFA (Central Academy of Fine Arts) alumni Wen Ling (b. 1976) and Yan Cong (b. 1983) knew each other from an online bulletin of a comic clique. Sharing the same ideals, they joined Lv Xiao, a youth subculture group aiming at “resisting commercial Japanese comics and striving for the uniqueness as Chinese comic artists”. Once active participators, the two chose to quit together when they eventually found their vision parting with the utopian group’s. Wen Ling and Yan Cong always emphasize the inspirations they draw from comics in their painting.  They focus on the independent, or rather  the underground works of their time, as well as the 20th century classics, from which they have not only derived the comic modeling styles and narrative strategies, but also the profound convention of this art form to reflect the reality, even its taste for humor and sarcasm.


For a dozen years, the adventure of the two artists never ceased. Although they are both deeply influenced by comics, their works look increasingly different from each other’s. The canvases that will be seen in this exhibition are all painted in the form of “multi panels”, which are borrowed from comic strips. In a series Wen Ling often calls the Camouflage, he broke the accepted rules of composition with the commonly used panels in comic strips, and obtained his unique quasi-expressionistic style with the visual vocabulary of “camouflage”. A group of works by Yan Cong are veritably “comic stories”. He painted multipanel comic stories, which don’t usually belong with the easel painting, namely the “high-art” painting, with the traditional easel-painting medium, i.e. acrylic on canvas. All his works are first person narratives, which are often misread as real stories of his own.


Before and during this upcoming exhibition in Star Gallery, Yan Cong and Wen Ling will collaborate in a way that they first called the The Crazy Comic Jam in 2015 at Art Basel, Hong Kong. This time, they are going to create a painting together, to resume their conversation in reference to comics, and to be the rivals of each other in painting.