Invisible Presence

Yan Pei-Ming

Video Nov 2011

Painter Yan Pei-Ming was born in Shanghai in 1960, and moved to France in the early 1980s, now dividing his time between his studios in Paris, Dijon and Shanghai. Yan’s monochrome paintings, in red, black or grey, are executed largely in oil on canvas, using large brushes and swift strokes, to achieve his characteristically “blurred” aesthetic. His blotchy, dappled watercolors use a similarly mysterious, vague effect. He is best-known for his portraits of well-known political and cultural icons—including Mao Zedong, Bruce Lee, Pope John Paul II, US president Barack Obama, or infamous fraudster Bernard Madoff. In this way his works reference major news events and historical issues, at a point where painting meets the contemporary proliferation of media images. Other works include a series of large canvases on prostitutes, his larger-than-life self-portraits and a ten-meter-long monochrome watercolour of piled skulls, 22 skulls (2006). In 2009 the Louvre Museum exhibited Yan’s Mona Lisa’s Funeral (2001) and other works.

ArtAsiaPacific contributing editor Andrew Cohen visits Yan Pei-Ming in his sizable studio, to discuss the themes and issues in some recent paintings.