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Being an Urban Artist in China - Fansack in an Interview

October 12, 2016
Alias of Ksenija Pantelić

The famous young Chinese urban artist Fansack never stops to amaze us. Combining his heritage and the freedom of the French spirit, his work draws attention to more reflective topics, such as religious, philosophical, or political concerns. Know for his use of the blue color, Fansack recalls the heritage of the controversial French artist, Yves Klein. The so-called Klein Blue is described to “blur out the edge between earth and sky, eliminating the horizon”.

A decade or so ago, alongside other rare Chinese street artists Fansack, painted many cities in China. The move to Paris in 2008, opened up the world of urban art movement to the artist and made him realize what possibilities lie in such an expression.

Best known for his trademark monkey characters, which stand as the representatives of the human nature, the artist tackles topics of reality and human existence. Aided by the blue color, the Buddhist philosophy, and humorous imagery, Fansack celebrates Eastern Art while at the same time strives for the liberation from lust and blind idolatry.

Widewalls wanted to know more and we were more than delighted once Fansack agreed to answer a few of our questions. As one of many Chinese artists who are starting to receive more recognition due to the quality of their work and the strong existence of its market, Fansack offers a look from the in-between. The ability to participate in the more open urban art movement in Europe allows him an insight into the challenges his contemporaries in China deal with. It is this rare view we wanted to know more about and here it is.

hotel in paris france was decorated with the heritage of his home in asia
Fansack – Baby bleu, 2015, Paris

The Beginnings for the Urban Artist Fansack

Widewalls: Tell us about your beginnings. How was it to be an urban artist over 10 years ago in China?

Fansack: Hi, my name is Fansack. I’m a contemporary urban artist, who comes from Chengdu in China and leaves in Paris. I started to do street art at the age of 15. Before that, I was in the skate culture and that’s what allowed me to discover graffiti culture and street art. During my childhood, I also had traditional Chinese painting and western painting lessons. That’s why I wanted to participate in the urban art movement till today. In China, the Urban Art movement started at the end of the twentieth century around the year 1990 with, for example, the artist Zhang Dali. So it’s very new here. Even though China experienced lots of changes over the years, political control still exists. In public places and in the streets, the government is present, there is monitored cameras everywhere, and all that can be seen are government slogans or advertising. So for me the meaning of urban art in China is very special, I want to give more liberty and living in this environment.

Fansack – Artwork

The Place of Urban Art in China

W: How did the situation in the arts change in Chengdu?

F: Chengdu changed a lot in over 20 years. Every year, I leave France to come back to Chengdu, and every time there is a lot of new changes… For the art, it’s the same. There are a lot of contemporary Chinese artists who are from or live in Chengdu, for example Zhou Chunya or Li Huasheng, so there is already a cultural atmosphere. With time there are more art projects and people who are interested in art and culture in general. Lots of art galleries, private and public museums are already here or under construction. So I think Chengdu is on the right path.

W: Can you describe the urban art scene in China today in comparison to Europe?

F: For more than 30 years, Urban Art in Europe already exists. Its artistic creation and market are more mature. Also, the constant is the evolution of this movement in Europe with all its different expressions and techniques. But like I said, urban art in China is new, so it’s like a virgin territory, and I feel there are a lot of new possibilities in this area.

Fansack – Artwork

The Buddhist Philosophy Influence

W: The display at J Plus Hotel has a curious title “Rūpa”. Can you tell us more about your inspiration here? Is it connected to Buddhist philosophy?

F: 色 / Rūpa is a Buddhist term. It represents reality, existence, and all phenomena, and is often associated with the name or mind. Perceived by the eye or the sense of sight (cakṣus), it is both the form and color in the Sankhya. In Buddhism, it is one of the five aggregates (skandha) of the ego. In Chinese, the word 色 / Rūpa also represents the color and lust. So it also represents the desire. And so, there is a play on words already in the theme, the word 色 / Rūpa speaks a lot to Asian people, and on the other hand the artworks of the exhibition will play with color and Buddhist elements. Images of monkeys in works exactly represents the humanity and the human nature. The artworks are also inspired by the Buddhist painting from the 13th century and also by Isaac Newton and his research about light.

Fansack – Work in Progress

What Does The Future Hold?

W: What are your plans after you open this exhibition?

F: After Hong Kong, I’m going back to Chengdu to finish works in the streets of the city. Next year I will have a solo show in a Parisian gallery. I have also lots of other projects coming up.

All images used for illustrative purposes only. Featured image: Fansack – Portrait.