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Zhang Peng’s photographic art
March 22, 2009 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Zhang Peng’s elaborate photographs have been called both "beautiful" and "disgusting". You can see some of them here and here.
posted by chiraena (39 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd go with "cheesy"
posted by delmoi at 10:32 AM on March 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


The horror fan within grins approvingly.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:41 AM on March 22, 2009


"Trying too hard"
posted by Burhanistan at 11:06 AM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the artist's statement is helpful.

Part of what he says is:
In a broad sense, all of my works demonstrate a kind of oppression. If conditions allow, parents plan a future that they think will be good for their child. If they are not wealthy enough, they hope their child will have a skill and then they force him to develop it. During the course of his growth, the child’s character is distorted by the inappropriate pressures of his parents and his school. The appearances of my figures drift between real people and dolls. The image is aesthetic but I also want to reinforce the strong sense of distortion.

We were simple and pure when we were young. There was no competition at that time and people earned the same amount of money and were friendly to each other. However this is not the case anymore. Relationships are frozen behind countless skyscrapers. The situation of the past is more ideal to me. It is a shame that the values of the past are long gone and money is now influencing everyone.
posted by Houstonian at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Does anyone ever use boys for this sort of thing? Female children constantly being grotesqued by artists makes me weary, regardless of the so called message.
posted by zarah at 11:13 AM on March 22, 2009 [19 favorites]


The whole "chinadoll grotesque" genre is a bit old hat, no?
posted by limon at 11:18 AM on March 22, 2009


The kid in the bath is the best of the bunch I think. There's a sly humour in it because it nicely juxtaposes the idea of horror-movie-bloodbath! with kiddie-bathtime!.
posted by dydecker at 11:23 AM on March 22, 2009


I liked the one of the field of kids with the plastic bags over their heads playing.

This said, if rendered cool, if photos they look too rendered.

Alice in Wonderland Goes East.

The subjects are a too young for me to connect with in any meaningful way. I like the images, just have seen this all done elsewhere, and done with a bit more punk rock and older figures.

Still a nice find.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:28 AM on March 22, 2009


pretty much exactly what Mark Ryden does only in a different medium.

Amen, zarah! It's a bit suspicious that it is always girls, or 95% of the time. I don't know if it would be much better with boys though.
posted by kolophon at 11:36 AM on March 22, 2009


"different" was supposed to link here.
posted by kolophon at 11:38 AM on March 22, 2009


intense work.
posted by krautland at 11:53 AM on March 22, 2009


Does anyone ever use boys for this sort of thing?

sometimes
posted by sexyrobot at 11:57 AM on March 22, 2009


Looks to me like an Asian version of that Jon-Benet Ramsey fetishism we've had in the United States.
posted by jonp72 at 11:58 AM on March 22, 2009


Does anyone ever use boys for this sort of thing?

Good point. Off the top of my head, there are these U2 album covers.
posted by chiraena at 12:34 PM on March 22, 2009


To me, the boys in the images linked by chiraena and sexyrobot seem active, aggressive-looking -- not passive, empty, made-up little dolls, apparently created to suffer. The images are similarly a little off, a little repellent, but I don't think the models are used in the same way.
posted by palliser at 12:42 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Highly sexualized, and it's difficult to determine from the author's commentary whether it's intentionally horrific or not. I mean, the one with the girl dressed as a ballerina, with smeared lipstick and bruises on her legs and severed shoe ribbons? You can't tell me that image isn't post-assault.
posted by muddgirl at 12:44 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude is talented.

And I wouldn't let him babysit.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:58 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Off the top of my head, there are these U2 album covers.

I don't think those images are quite in the same category -- there's no grotesque dimension involved. And although the Boy cover was originally changed in the U.S. because the record company feared the band would be accused of pedophilia, it's really a stretch to say that either cover is a sexualized image; for Boy, it really was intended as an illustration of the innocence of childhood (which fits in with the main themes of the album); for War, it was to show how children are unfairly caught up in the political and social violence created by adults.

Interestingly, Peter Rowan -- the subject in both images -- grew up to become a photographer himself.
posted by scody at 1:01 PM on March 22, 2009


Well, that was unpleasant.
posted by Garak at 1:08 PM on March 22, 2009


Good point. Off the top of my head, there are these U2 album covers.
posted by chiraena at 3:34 PM on March 22 [+] [!]


Yeah but that's nowhere close. Looks a lot like the stuff in here though. I was wondering when goth would hit China. I like this.

If conditions allow, parents plan a future that they think will be good for their child. If they are not wealthy enough, they hope their child will have a skill and then they force him to develop it. During the course of his growth, the child’s character is distorted by the inappropriate pressures of his parents and his school.

However this is not the case anymore. Relationships are frozen behind countless skyscrapers. The situation of the past is more ideal to me. It is a shame that the values of the past are long gone and money is now influencing everyone.


Quoted For Truth. That's so familiar it hurts. But:

We were simple and pure when we were young. There was no competition at that time and people earned the same amount of money and were friendly to each other.

It's odd to see a walking talking example of a Strawberry.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 1:09 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


"We were simple and pure when we were young."

Bullshit. Children are as simple and innocent as pets—because they have no real power, they're not dangerous, but that doesn't mean they're not venal, selfish, conniving little bastards.

And I'm sorry, but that girls have all sorts of weird expectations and social roles thrust upon them isn't news, and saying, "Hey, that's rotten," which is essentially all these photos do (and calling them photos is a stretch—digital paintings might be closer) isn't giving us new solutions nor presenting the problem in a new light. All it's doing is making the problem sensuous and lush, which is kind of on an orthogonal axis. Yes, it's tempting to project these distorted roles onto girls (which I think, despite the gender-neutral "children" language, this photographer is just as guilty of), now what? How about we stop making "Broken Ballerina" art then, and if you really want to address this, work on photographs that show the same level of saturated craft presenting girls doing things that they want to do, or actions that are at least ambiguous or hard to conceptualize as archetypes, something that would actually reinforce your thesis of kids as simple and innocent—without your projected meaning. Hell, I'd even settle for sumptuous images of girls pursuing activities traditionally reserved for boys. But a girl reclining on red velvet with a stethoscope and Erlenmeyer flask wouldn't be as conceptually lazy (and thus not as appealing to lazy audiences).
posted by klangklangston at 1:34 PM on March 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Huh. Reminds me of a tamed down Trevor Brown (nsfw).
posted by Drainage! at 3:50 PM on March 22, 2009


They remind me of those black velvet paintings of kids with huge sad eyes. I'd rather look at Ray Caesar's work
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:44 PM on March 22, 2009


oh rats working link to Ray Caesar here
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:35 PM on March 22, 2009


I see Anne Geddes has been hanging out at Hot Topic.
posted by dvdgee at 8:11 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anne Geddes loses it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:22 PM on March 22, 2009


But a girl reclining on red velvet with a stethoscope and Erlenmeyer flask wouldn't be as conceptually lazy (and thus not as appealing to lazy audiences).

Tell us how you make your money again, would you?
posted by Wolof at 10:57 PM on March 22, 2009


Why would anyone use boys for grotesque distortions? They're already made of grotesque things, such as snips, snails, and puppydog tails. I'm kidding, but I'm also not kidding. Boys are stupid; throw rocks at them. They're disposable and likely full of boogers.

The artistic choice is fairly simple, if you're going for impact. Do we, culturally, associate purity and innocence more with boys, or with girls? Are we more protective of boys, or girls? Which gender is easier to present in a sexualized manner?

Once you honestly answer those three questions, making girls your gender of choice for children looking like albino lemurs suffering from alopecia, dipped in a nice Bathory, is pretty much a gimme.
posted by adipocere at 11:57 PM on March 22, 2009


I view the images, and wonder: How would my opinion be different, were I to come from a culture, such as China, where the color red is emblematic of life, rather than of death/war.
posted by Goofyy at 12:14 AM on March 23, 2009


Veering off course here, but am I the only one who cringes at "Artist's Statements" and think visual artists do a disservice to themselves and their work when verbalizing their intentions?

You don't ask novelists to draw their characters for you, you know, cause you "weren't quite sure what they looked like by their descriptions in the book."

Unless I guess you're Daniel Clowes or something.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 4:22 AM on March 23, 2009


I found them somewhat disturbing, but nowhere near as disturbing as the Viagra ads at the bottom of some of the ones in the first link.
posted by TedW at 5:46 AM on March 23, 2009


Margaret Keane is alive and well, and living in the San Francisco Bay area.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:54 AM on March 23, 2009


"Tell us how you make your money again, would you?"

Until a couple weeks ago, I coordinated between the production, editorial and compliance departments for four national pornographic magazines.

Before that, I was a rock and roll columnist for about six years, and also freelanced at a variety of places.

Exactly what does that have to do with my comment, Wolof?
posted by klangklangston at 11:01 AM on March 23, 2009


"Once you honestly answer those three questions, making girls your gender of choice for children looking like albino lemurs suffering from alopecia, dipped in a nice Bathory, is pretty much a gimme."

Well, yeah, that's the objection.The reason to use boys is to avoid the easy gimme.
posted by klangklangston at 11:03 AM on March 23, 2009


I remember stumbling across a gallery showing Peng's work when I was up in NYC in December - we were walking down the way when I noticed it and said "oh hey, I know this artist! Let's check it out." And then when we got in, I realized it wasn't the weird fetishy grotesque loli artist I was thinking of, or the one I always got that one confused with. Or the other one that is pretty similar. Or the one that does the same thing, but in a different medium. It was a new weird fetishy grotesque loli artist that I could throw into the mix and get confused with all the rest!
posted by FatherDagon at 11:06 AM on March 23, 2009


Might want to note this as NSFW or label as controversial. These images are not for everyone and can be seen as highly offensive.

Yeah, it does remind me of Ray Caesar as well - only his work doesn't have real people in them.
posted by Rashomon at 2:15 PM on March 23, 2009


Needs some pictures of dogs playing cards.
posted by happyroach at 3:42 PM on March 23, 2009


Exactly what does that have to do with my comment, Wolof?

There's a little word for professing one side of an argument while taking coin from the other. I'll let you figure out what it is.
posted by Wolof at 11:57 PM on March 23, 2009


Please stop playing coy. What, exactly, does my former work in pornography have to do with the bit you quoted?
posted by klangklangston at 8:10 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


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