A group of young artists in Guangzhou brought Cartoon Drawing in the 1990s. As a new artistic trend, Cartoon Generation somehow becomes the counterpart of Vulgar Art of the north, bringing a new probability for the development of art in the mid 90s. Jiang Heng is one of the pioneers and representatives of Cartoon Generation. He joined the trend and thus became the witness of the trend. Though after a decade the old Cartoon has faded away, the creation that pays heeds to public consumption and culture continues. The problem that needed to be issued has exceeded from the concept “Cartoon” itself.
Jiang Heng loves beauties. Everyone knows that. In his world, Jiang cosplays one and one hero roles to rescue the beauties that created by him. The beauties that wear emotionless faces with beautiful big eyes and flying butterflies are always the focus on the canvas. Jiang tries to express the ambiguity of female roles through an opposite way. This embeds a social meaning. There is little possibility for artists to change the world, but they could call on people’s souls by attracting their eye sights.
There is no doubt that Cartoon Generation was avant-garde at that time. Interestingly, the first exhibition of Cartoon Generation is held in South China Normal University (SCNU).
SCNU applied a more innovative and tolerant teaching. Teachers and students enjoyed those foreign movies and discussed them hilariously. Jiang believed movie played a part in his creation. In 1993, the artist started to focus on consumption era right after his wading of performance art. Such inspiration came from the re-acknowledge of daily life. Social Reform has enormously boosted the development of society, and the habits of people’s consuming behaviors have changed a lot. “I was born in Chaoshan region, and after I came to Guangzhou which is a metropolis. I saw the difference between village and city, and that made me hard to blend into the city. I was a marginal man then. I began to fall in love with playing games and at the same time I shot a lot of the scenes of the young playing games. It was a reflection of attitude and an important part of youth culture. And the value of Cartoon Generation resembled to my creation in many ways. The same theme and openness of SCNU made the first exhibition a possible.”
Danto once says that the power of criticizing would be weakened if art is too beautiful. But Jiang does not worry about his “beauties”. “I agree with Danto, but I don’t think beauty is the bane of a lack of meaning in one art piece. As long as one work contains enough and deep meaning, beauty won’t overshadow it. It is like a handsome boy or beautiful girl that lacks a well education. I don’t think it would be a bad thing if people are attracted by the appearance of an art piece. Beauty does bring happiness to spectators. But if one could not read the meaning behind the beauty, then the blame should not go to the artist. In my opinion, my works don’t belong to the general concept of beauty. Critique has nothing to do with beauty or ugliness. It should be expressed through the way that one applies and the substance that whether truly existed or not.”
Since the beauties become the symbol of Jiang, many doubt whether if it is a trick to attract the market. But Jiang denies it. If I was that diplomatic, there would be no need for me to extend my exploration and creation. I don’t like planning, but I do have my thought and direction. I am not sure whether it is a strategy or choice, but I will always be myself.”