Self-portraiture and emerging artistic consciousness in Dafen

Dafen is a village surrounded by the thriving metropolis of Shenzhen, and the origin of most of the world’s reproduction oil paintings. In the popular imagination Dafen’s artists produce anonymous works for unknown customers, operating no differently than a faceless factory churning out counterfeits, replicas and nothing close to what would be considered art.

REGIONAL productively collaborated with the otherwise commoditized community in Dafen by asking selected individuals, some for the first time, to imagine themselves in their professional medium. The final works show the technical, creative, and professional facets of the artists identities subsumed by the styles and relationships they maintain with specific famous artists. The hybrid result of original subject with derivative style comments on originality, global cultural production and REGIONAL’s cooperation with emerging enterprise forms that are internationalizing the village.

The product of the collaboration are sets of images (seen below) comprising a digital photo of the artist in his studio, an indicative painting of their usual output and an original self-portrait. While the final works contain both the creative signature of the original masters and the emergent self-consciousness of the Dafen artists, it is equally important to note that they derived great fulfillment from using their talents freely, and were remunerated at a rate commensurate with the unique international nature of the project.

The series operates as a comment on iconicity in cultural reproduction and consumerism as well as posits strategies for enabling and activating creativity that would otherwise be absorbed by routine production. The works produced with the talent of DAFEN are part of a continuing series of our international collaborations that seek to engage and encourage untapped creative, cultural and economic opportunity around the world.

The paintings seen below are to be featured in galleries worldwide in the coming year.

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Xiao Keman (b. 1980), Shanxi Province, PRC. Painter of DaVinci. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm

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Yang Guoyin (b. 1956), Hunan Province PRC. Painter of VanGogh. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm renoir-for-web.jpg
Zhong Min (b. 1976), Jiangxi Province, PRC. Painter of Renoir. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm
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Zhang Fei (b. 1981), Hunan Province, PRC. Painter of Zhao Wuji. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm

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Xu ZanPeng (b. 1987), Yunnan Province, PRC. Painter of Russian Baroque (Иван Николаевич Крамской). Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm
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He Weidong (b. 1975), Jiangxi Province, PRC. Painter of Zhang Xiaogang. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm

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