“ Shen Jingdong · Outside of Art” 2023 NYRCA Annual Solo Exhibition

Outside of Art

Shen Jingdong

Art is virtual. Life is a tangible reality. Prior to the pandemic, I organized art exhibitions worldwide and to explore the world while pursuing artistic endeavors. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit, my plans were disrupted, but life continued. During the winter season of 2021, despite widespread lockdowns and tight security measures across China, my beloved son was born at Beijing United Family Hospital.

We reside in the Yanjiao, Hebei Province, which is only separated from Beijing by a river. However, it is extremely difficult to enter Beijing without passing through the mandatory checkpoint.

Once the authority discover a new case of COVID-19, entire communities are sealed off. Looking down the road from a higher level, there was no sign of life except the parked cars on the side of the road.

The community must undergo daily mandatory nucleic acid testing at regular intervals. Everyone in the long queue beyond your sight wear masks with expressionless faces. They stand in silence, even during extreme weather, looking down at their phones. Without obtaining a negative test result, you are not allow to leave the house, go to the supermarket, restaurant, or take any transport when allowed out to buy necessities.

Every time when I go with my wife to the hospital for her appointment, we must pass through a required checkpoint. It is common for cars to wait in line for several hours. After the restrictions are lifted, people appear to come from everywhere and the traffic become overcrowded.

We got up early one day after the restriction is lifted, but only to find that the queue going through the checkpoints has been lined up till in front of our door, the car moves like ants crawling, after queuing for several hours, it was finally our turn. We prepared the nucleic acid certificate, certificate of commuting, but the system shows a red light, the police check the results said that my car passed through a “High Risk” area even though I had not left my house. I was baffled and explained my situation that my spouse needed a pregnancy medical check-up. While the officer wishes to be sympathetic, he was unable to override the system, which displays a red light. The officer apologized, confiscated my ID card and instructed us to turn around and return home.

This was just one of many experiences I had throughout the pandemic, but it was enough to make me feel desperate. What if my wife had given birth that day? I have came across two or three situations on the internet where a child died in the womb due to a lack of nucleic acid testing in the hospital delivery room. I’m grateful that my son, who is now a year and a half old, intelligent, and adorable, was born during an pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic,  I was supposed to hold a solo show in New York in 2020. Paintings were shipped to New York ahead of time, but due to the start of the pandemic, they were continually postponed until September of this year. The exhibition will be held at the Crossing Art Gallery in New York.

It has been more than three years, many people have departed and many new lives have been brought into the world. History always progresses, life moves on, and art cannot be stifled. Contrary to the popular belief that the moon appears fuller in foreign lands than in China, I don’t believe in it.  I will still explore the world while pursuing artistic endeavors taking my family with me.

Shen Jingdong

Born in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China in 1965. Graduated from the Department of Fine Arts, Nanjing Academy of Art。1991—2009 Serving in the Battlefront Art Troupe of the Political Department of Nanjing Military Region. At present living in Beijing.

Through new forms and expressive colors he created a series of works such as Little Prince, Soldier, News Broadcast and Animal which have been widely praised around the world.

He enjoyed painting when he was young and was strongly influenced by his father. After graduating from junior high school, he enrolled in Nanjing Xiaozhuang Normal University which was created by Mr Tao Xingzhi, and attended art class at the school for three years. He worked as an elementary art teacher for three years after his graduation. His contact with children and children’s education influenced his future artistic creations.

He was then admitted to Nanjing Art Institute which was founded by Mr. Liu Haisu. His study of engraving has further improved his ability to summarize art and techniques of expression. After he graduated, he engaged in stage art for 18 years in the famous Front-line Art Troupe of the Nanjing Military Area Command. The variety of soldiers’ experience and stage art applications provides a rich background for his art experience.

Most of his works are presented as cartoon portraits with small eyes. If you look carefully, you will see that these images have some spiritual likeness to him. However, the small eyes in the paintings have become a classic symbolic language of himself.

Nowadays, he holds art exhibitions all over the world and takes these works with small eyes to look at the big world. For him, creativity is to constantly have new changes and new content in subject and form, to make his painting more and more plentiful, interesting and free, much like himself. As a humorous observer he wants to portray society and real life through his own personal perspective.

His art not only adds a brilliant color to today’s history, but more importantly extends an optimistic spiritual dimension to Chinese contemporary art.