Cheng Conglin is a Chinese artist who is one of the foremost representatives of the Chinese Scar Art period. After the Cultural Revolution, Chinese artists were no longer bound by its standardized painting styles. They began to focus more on the land and its people, developing the unique Scar Art style to express genuine emotions and feelings, especially the psychological traumas suffered by the people during the Cultural Revolution. Through a sincere artistic language. Cheng’s Scar Art language is of a non-pretentious, humble and realistic style, illustrating the artist’s observations of the lives and strong spiritual strength of society’s underprivileged.
Cheng was born in 1954 in Chengdu, Sichuan and in 1982 he graduated with a degree in oil painting from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. He moved to Germany in 1987, and he has taught at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and the Universitt Osnabrück.
His important works include Snow on Day X Month X 1968 (See Figure 1), A Summer Night in 1978 (See Figure 2), and A Chinese Boat. Cheng focused on the lives of extremely ordinary people and used simple Realist techniques to depict fragments of the lives of the Yi people on Daliang Mountain. Cheng’s use of color is dignified, simple, and emphatic; the painting’s deep lyricism intensifies the human figures’ psychological and visual aspects.
In his 1991 work entitled Sunning Millet (Lot 536), Cheng depicts an autumn labor scene of a mother carrying her young child on her back and turning over the golden millet in the afternoon sun. The scene is suffused with an aesthetic, poignant, and nostalgic mood. Cheng used thick and heavy brushstrokes, rich layers of color, and painting texture to depict the farmhouse walls and the land. They are substantial and vigorous, as if they were living things, with blood flowing under their mottled and time-worn exteriors. The Yi mother and child are wrapped in a gentle golden light as the mother skillfully turns over the millet and the child curiously observes his mother’s every move. Cheng is deeply moved by the beauty of her pure heart and her simple country exterior. In contrast to the life-like methods of Realist artists from the same period, Cheng featured unique blocks of thick color; he used symbolic ochre and black in the painting, representing depth and dignity.
Cheng employed the Impressionist style, which allows rich personal feelings to merge with the depicted subject. Therefore, the details in the painting are not portrayed using pure Realism; they are symbols that Cheng has refined, full of metaphors for the era and circumstances in which he lived. Through portraying authentic details of village life, Cheng took the ordinary and wove it into the plot of a narrative painting. Like the nineteenth-century Soviet Realists, his work betrays a deep literary flavor. Although the artworks portray fragments of an ordinary life, they provide a sense of seriousness, solemnity, and loftiness.
The painting’s composition is integrated and the modeling of the figures is summary, with a focus on depth. The painting reflects Cheng’s rational contemplation of humanity; his experiences of tragedy added an obvious sociological element that allows the viewer to understand the daily lives and circumstances of average people.
Cheng Conglin lives and works in Germany.