All over China you see rubbish everywhere, and rubbish culture as well.’

Born 1962, Duyun, Guizhou. Lives and works in Sydney

Guo Jian made his name primarily as a painter. But a visit to his home village after several years in Beijing and Sydney turned him into something of a photojournalist. Shocked by the drastic deterioration of the local environment and traditional culture, both of which he believes are inundated with “rubbish”, he took hundreds of photographs to document what he saw. In Picturesque Scenery 26 (2011-2012), what appears to be a typical multi-panel Chinese landscape painting—misty lake, wooden houses, forested hills—resolves into thousands of tiny faces, all cut from images of the trash that defaces that same landscape. For the artist, painting is a vehicle for emotion; photography is evidence. Using photography to simulate painting brings heart and head together. In Untitled (Children) (2014), women and children celebrating a festival are wearing cheap plastic versions of the clothing, masks and ornaments that earlier generations wore, and playing with toy guns. “They have lost their tradition,” the artist says, “but they are reinventing a new tradition that still has bright colours and similar looking objects. The guns make it look as if they are defending this new way.”

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