“Art for me is like a religion. I can not imagine life without art.”

Born Acheng City, Heilongjiang, 1956

Not long after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Shen Shaomin—who had joined a group of artists demanding freedom from Party control—was invited to Australia. His decade there yielded little happiness, but it did give the former printmaker a new idea, which he pursued with a passion on his return to China in 2001. He makes skeletons of creatures that never existed, surreal biosculptures assembled from a mixture of real bones and fake ones confected from bone meal and glue. The foetus-sized skeleton in Laboratory: Three-Headed, Six-Armed Superman (2005) has three skulls fused together, and each of its arms has its own scapula and clavicle. Such “mutant” skeletons look plausible because we are accustomed to seeing bones as unfakable—trusted by science and the law alike. Shen Shaomin says his works are in part a warning about scientific arrogance in everything from cloning to genetic engineering: “I am completely convinced that scientists are capable of creating dragons.” And “if our scientists attempt to create creatures from fables … what will become of the world?”

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