“ It’s hard to know how many things have to disappear before people find their hearts settled down.”
Born 1984, Huatong, Liaoning. Lives and works in Beijing.
“I like the traditional way of painting,” Dong Yuan says. But she graduated from the newly established Experimental Art Department at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts—and she paints on a far from traditional scale. Her works are often visual encyclopedias of ordinariness. For Daily Scenes (2009), she painted 42 separate views from the stairwells of her apartment building on the outskirts of Beijing. They are far from beautiful—dusty yards, scrawny trees, people doing daily chores—but her meticulous rendering gives them a kind of beauty. Her Home of Paintings (2008) is constructed from 59 canvases; Painted Kitchen (2010) contains 172; and Sketch of Family Belongings (2008) has 186. These keenly observed and patiently executed works transform the cheap, everyday contents of humble homes into things of exquisite beauty. The Repeated Illusion series (2013) is based on favourite still life paintings by artists such as Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Jean-Baptist Weenix, Adolph von Menzel, and Jan Bruegel the Elder. Dong Yuan altered them to suit her personal taste, much as one might recover a sofa. In Repeated Illusions 1, she paints an empty vase and suspends cut-out painted flowers on a line near the canvas. Bosch’s Paradise (2013) consists of 307 separate parts – oil paintings, paintings inside glass bottles and painted cabinets and objects, all inspired by the early Netherlandish fantasist Hieronymus Bosch and his vision of The Garden of Earthly Delights (c.1480 –1505). Dong Yuan loves the sharply delineated worlds of northern Renaissance old master paintings, and how they juxtapose real and imagined scenes. The installation was part of a major project, Grandmother’s House and Bosch’s Garden, created in memory of her beloved grandmother, and the house near Dalian where Dong Yuan experienced her happiest childhood years.