In 2008 the Chinese art critic Wang Lin wrote an essay about Deng Jianjin’s paintings entitled ‘Bloody Romance and Male Confusion’. We can do no better than reproduce this extract from his observations:
Deng Jianjin’s works on sex, eroticism, violence, abuse and pain are extraordinary. Whether in the early works that are dry, scorched and knot-like, or in the later canvases that flow dreamlike, he creates a certain harmony and coherence in the awkward shapes, blunt colours and unexpected embellishments – gun, scar, meteor, text. It all results in a depth of visual stimulation and power of spiritual shock, a sense of the unspeakable ferment of the modern world.
Deng Jianjin describes his subject matter in this way: ‘What we see all around us is the psychological, irrational, subconscious response to our surroundings, bred from deep human nature. It is also a split phenomenon of human nature wandering between reality and illusion. I aim to express the contradictions and embarrassments of desire in human nature.’ He is very aware of being a man exploring issues which involve sexual politics and cultural expectations around sex roles and the unequal distribution of power. He does not claim the ability to describe the utopia of the equality of men and women, but explores the problems, which are both social and personal, objective and subjective. Such self-questioning and self-disclosure demonstrate his own and society’s confusion in the face of desire and morality. Deng Jianjin is frankly explicit, which often makes his viewers nervous and anxious.
Deng is clear that male sexual psychology is not only inborn and natural, it is also the result of cultural tradition, social customs and family education. Moreover, the commercial popularity of female images in today’s society strengthens the domination of men over women. In Deng Jianjin’s works, whether heterosexual or in homosexual, the women often pose in erotic and seductive stances, displaying breasts and buttocks and opening their legs as if waiting for something. The men are often depicted in puzzled and reflective mood.
Art cannot and will not become some remedy to save the world, but it can help us find truths about ourselves and our world. Deng Jianjin’s paintings make us deeply feel that—when the satisfaction of body and the pleasure of consuming are controlled by the power of others, expressions of psychological hurt and spiritual pain become vitally important to personal life. His works encourage self-examination and self-growth, and the necessity of exploring personal interactions and communications. They contain the expectations of people’s being, and though it may look like a bloody romance resulting from male confusion, it is after all the sunset which makes us so beautiful.
The paintings here are shown in date order, starting in 1988.