Siyuan LIU

This body of work references political propaganda posters. The portrait of the Chinese leader Mao Zedong is a deep collective memory of every single Chinese citizen. We’ve have been taught to be a patriot since our birth. Just like the rock song said we are the balls/eggs under the red flag. Currently, in China and especially in some undeveloped areas, the figure of Mao has still consecrated a god-- a savior of people. Chinese left-wing politicians and scholars still promote propaganda if his ideologies in print images both in poster form and on the internet. In contrast, in the capitalist world, Mao is considered as an evil dictator and tyrant. In my opinion, we should provide an objective definition of this figure instead of the extremely biased read from history. I have chosen his portrait because it is symbolic, powerful, controversial, and it contains complex meanings.

The draperies and cloths have three meanings for me. First, it is an important memory of my childhood. When I started to draw and sketch at the age of six, the lights and shades of the drapery were difficult to render because fabric folds are soft, changing, and the shading complicated. I admired the western masters since they could paint the draperies and cloths realistically. Depicting fabric is important to me because the material holds the cultural and historical reference. The invention of fabric is a significant symbol if civilization. Human beings use the cloth to protect themselves from the hostile environment and extreme weather, as well as to cover their private body parts which means the social structure tended to stable because of the sense of proprietorship of sex. Lastly, the father of Chinese rock and roll Cui Jian wrote a famous song “ A Piece of Red Cloth” in 1988. This song describes his struggle in a romantic relationship. However, there are many political metaphors underneath such as the first lyrics that day you used a piece of red cloth to cover my eyes and the sky. The red cloth can be considered as the color of the communist party and the Chinese flag. This song connected romantic love and political realities together to create an unusual and ambiguous atmosphere. Furthermore, the fear of the authority, as well as the implicit expression of feelings, the metaphor is the most important part in Chinese literature in history.

In the series titled Protection, I cut draperies and cloth pieces from my collection of western master painting books to cover Mao’s portrait with multiple compositions. Then, I utilized Photoshop to adjust the color tone. The final step is to print multiple large posters like images using a high-quality fine art printer. In the series of work, I redefine the meaning of the process of collage as a method instead of a result because the printed posters contain the meaning of mechanical reproductions and delivering the message which is the political propaganda in modern history. The ambiguity is also an important aspect of my work. The defacing of Mao could be considered an insult or a criticism. On closer inspection, the viewer will see that the thick paint across the image is actually drapery and cloth, and the meaning of protection emerges. Lastly, another layer of ambiguity is that am I preventing the viewer from seeing Mao’s face, and simultaneously, blocking Mao’s gaze at us?