This work addresses the cultural convergence of Western ideas about the value of art and the mass production of Chinese oil paintings that reproduce the work of, or mimic the style of, European masters and render snapshots emailed as digital files. Rather than printing my photographic portraits of the painters to photo paper, I commissioned oil paintings so that the painter replaces the printer. This mode of production calls into question the use of the artist as manual laborer, as well as the value and authorship of the “original” and copied artworks, by creating a complex, many-layered image.
Contrastingly, the still life photographic prints of the painters’ live/work spaces include imagery of paintings and/or painting tools so the materiality of the industry becomes the subject of the still life.
"... filling orders for oil paintings either through a dealer or the internet, feeding a billion dollar industry. These paintings make up two thirds of the world’s oil painting market, ..."
America’s reliance on consumer goods produced in China catalyzed my interest in documenting various industries there over the course of the past five years. China’s industrial revolution has created pockets of focused manufacturing in which entire communities, towns, or regions are dedicated to producing one type of product to supply the global market. Wushipu and Haicang are communities in Xiamen, China where commercial oil painters occupy entire apartment complexes, filling orders for oil paintings either through a dealer or the internet, feeding a billion dollar industry. These paintings make up two thirds of the world’s oil painting market, appearing in tourist galleries, hotels, furniture stores, and cruise ships around the world. The painters sometimes make a hundred or more copies of the same painting for a single order. The paintings are often signed with western names. The majority of the painters function as anonymous laborers.
Book By Priscilla Briggs