(b. 1943, Shanghai)


Yu Youhan graduated from the Central Institute of Technology in Beijing in 1970. He presently teaches at the Shanghai Institute of Industrial Arts.

Yu Youhan is a key figure in the Political Pop movement. His influence on Chinese avant-garde art has been felt since the mid-Eighties, when he was a major figure in the Shanghai Minimalist movement.

With his Mao series, begun in 1989, Yu once again has emerged as a major force, but this time in the very different realm of Pop. The Mao series consists of portrait-like depictions of Mao's everyday life excruciatingly familiar to every Chinese. But in Yu's flamboyantly coloured, floral-strewn portraits, Mao's principles of "art for the purpose of political instruction" and "art for the pleasure of the masses" set forth in his Yan'an Talks on Literature and Art are given a new twist. During the Mao era these two principles gave rise to art movements that stressed the absorption of folk art as their nucleus. Yu Youhan apparently follows suit, but his masterful rendering of the bright folksy patterns and his whimsical compositional approach create a distinctly bizarre effect.

"I like to express my thoughts through images of Mao Zedong. I have also painted other subject, such as the Chinese currency, the renminbi; bicycles; playing cards; and abstract works, the Circle series. The season I have chosen Mao as a favourite subject is because he is a popular character, both among Chinese and Westerners. I myself consider him a legendary figure worth depicting. during the Cultural Revolution, portraits of Mao were deified: they exuded a feeling of political. During the Cultural Revolution, portraits of Mao were deified: they exuded a feeling of political passion and cultureless superstition. Mao advocated getting rid of the "Four Old Principles." He opposed the use of the dragon and phoenix pattern, which to him was a symbol of the blind worship of the monarchy…

My goal is to depict the figure of Mao in a new light."

---Yu Youhan

(From: China's New Art Post 1989, 1993)