FROM THE MASSES
TO THE MASSES:
AN ARTIST IN MAO'S CHINA (56.46)
From the Masses to the Masses is the story of Jin Zhilin, a Chinese artist whose career was altered dramatically by the currents that have shaped the past century of Chinese history. His personal experience provides a unique window into the life of an artist in a revolutionary society.
Educated as an oil painter in the Western tradition, Jin responded with interest to the 1949 revolution and Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong's call for artists to learn from the masses, and create for the masses. But after Mao called for a Cultural Revolution to purge China's intellectuals and those he deemed insufficiently "red" in 1966, Jin found himself on the wrong side of the new artistic mandates. Imprisoned and alone, he even attempted to take his own life.
Sent to Yan'an upon his release, another political shift finally put Jin in the position to pursue his lifelong passion: to learn from the masses, in this case the traditional artists of Yan'an province. He and his group of students spent the next seven years capturing the life and history of the revolutionary capital on oil, watercolor and wood block prints.
Art has been defined as a medium of expression where the individual and culture come together. What happens to the individual artist when culture becomes a tool of government? How does political upheaval impact art as an expression of the times? Can art and culture survive and overcome government repression?
From the Masses to the Masses uses the actual art discovered three decades later, and interviews with the artists, to record the thought, travail, hardship and camaraderie of this important watershed period in modern Chinese history and offers a unique opportunity to approach some of these larger questions through an artist's eyes.