“Art is in part a search for freedom.”

Born 1977, Changde, Hunan

“I don’t really care about politics,” He Jie says. “Nor do I care much about the role politics plays in art.” But he does care about, and comment on, the way politics instrumentalises people. The setting of his huge triptych I Have a Dream that I Will Stand on Tiananmen and Shoot the Oriental Arrow (2007) is identical to that of Dong Xiwen’s iconic Founding Ceremony (1953), which memorialised Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China. That older painting was reworked several times to erase officials who fell from Party favour. He Jie’s monochrome version removes both Mao and the apparatchiks from Dong Xiwen’s scene and replaces them with a single Mongolian archer in Red Army uniform, his arrow aimed at the spot where Mao’s head was. This figure—headless and pierced by arrows—is for the artist “a symbol of the future trajectory of the revolution”.

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