Artist profile

Duan Jianyu

Duan Jianyu’s work speaks of the tension between the urban and the rural in a rapidly industrialising China, as well as the coexistence of “high” world art histories and “low” global popular culture. Her work weaves its own obscure narratives, juxtaposing trivial everyday objects with motifs from the Eastern and Western canons of art. She tempers a sublime romantic yearning for the past and the pastoral with touches and irony and farce, through absurd situations and a painting style which avoid virtuoso gestures in favour of a homely warmth and modesty. In her own words, “I love secretly describing the details of life, apparently rationally and politely, calming them with fakes, falsities and untruths”. While some of her works highlight the attraction of travel, Duan Jianyu’s paintings also tackle the flip side of this new freedom of movement, which is the sense of rootlessness that comes from mass migration. The theme of ‘home’ and family is introduced in the form of characters such as ‘sisters, mothers, and mother’s sisters and mother’s cousins’. Indeed, in Chinese there is no differentiation between the word for home as place or family.


Born in He Nan province, China
Graduated from oil Painting Department of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.
Teaches at the Fine Arts Department of South China Normal University

Selected exhibitions

Sharp, Sharp, Smart, Mirrored Gardens, Guangzhou, China
A Potent Force: Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai
Cousins, Annely Juda Fine Art, London (with Sigrid Holmwood)
The Seduction of Village, the shop/Vitamin Creative Space, Beijing
Sister, Paolo Maria Deanesi Gallery, Italy