Reframing the representation of women in contemporary China with feminism
AffiliationSchool of Art
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2023-08-28. This item is currently available to University of Melbourne staff and students only, login required.
© 2019 Su Yang
Reframe the Representation of Women in Contemporary Chinese Art with Feminism investigates the representations of women from the Cultural Revolution to today. Through a practice-led thesis, the research shows how women are formed through social, cultural, and political ideologies of “ideal female beauty,” and reframes the representation of women in contemporary Chinese art from a feminist perspective through my practice of making and writing about female representations in art. The representation of “ideal female beauty” that are investigated in this research include the propaganda posters during the Cultural Revolution, Chinese neo-classical paintings in the contemporary Chinese market, as well as the social media, selfie culture, and advertising in Chinese popular culture. The different representations of women developed over time reflect the patriarchal aesthetics of women in traditional Chinese Confucianism, the influence of traditional European nude genre painting on representations of woman, Chinese Communist Party’s political ideologies on gender, and consumerism under globalization. As one of the feminist debates around the diversities of nations, culture, and society, I found Chinese conception of feminism as “feminine-ism” has affected theorizing feminist art in Chinese art criticism. This research re-theorizes Chinese feminist art through case studies of contemporary Chinese feminist artists. To reframe the representation of women in contemporary Chinese art, this research includes a feminist criticism of the patriarchal aesthetics of female representation in the contemporary Chinese art market. It also includes a feminist analysis of some Chinese women artists who represent different female forms by using their bodies in their art and the first generation of Chinese feminist artists rather than “feminine-ism artists” that include me to reframe the representation of women by feminism. The study of the representation of women complements my own paintings, photographs, videos, and a short film in which I present the effects of the “invisible ideologies” that shape the dominant idea of “ideal female beauty” through representations of non-therapeutic cosmetic surgery showing how the invisible ideology becomes visible in women’s bodies through cosmetic surgery. I use the female images in my art to challenge patriarchal aesthetics of female beauty, to resist the cycle of producing the representation of women as beautiful objects, and to refuse the stereotypes of women’s art as feminine essence reinforced by Chinese feminine-ism and certain contemporary Chinese art criticism.
Keywordsideology; Chinese feminism; patriarchy in China; Chinese feminist and women’s art; female body and beauty; Western feminist art theory and criticism; feminism; contemporary Chinese art
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