About the Artist
Kun Fang is an artist born on August 18, 1974 in Beijing, China, since 1990 she lives in Belgium. In 2000 she graduated from the Royal Academy in Antwerp.
Red Lips are a series which originate through a spontaneous process of sketching, colour affinities and real life observations.
The paintings in Red lips originated as a sequel to the earlier series Noir, rouge et blanc that also featured women protagonists. The women were portrayed in full figure, without background or detail except in the face and the hands and using only black, red and white. Each portrait focused on one clear body tension (pose/movement) to refine its expression and show a unique aspect of female character.
At the end of this series focus was drawn to the lips, the most sensual and expressive part of the body. The lips give a voice and attract the attention of others. Looking at a face the gaze is first drawn to the eyes and then to the lips. As the epicentre of sex and language lips function both as fragile gatekeepers and powerful symbols of exchange and connection.
In a world that is full of war, poverty and death, the need for a voice is strong, even more so during the pandemic.
During lockdown men and women who live together were confronted more with their partners’ otherness.
The paintings explore the functioning of lips in different situations. Sometimes the lips are muffled. Other times Chinese calligraphy floods the background. Sometimes the lips are enlarged, their red colour powerfully contrasted by blue and yellow. In another painting they are the small, stylised and bloody red centre of a pale face, as a symbolic exaggeration (as if the person is observing her own lips and background) (Red lips #3).
Red lips are a well known theme in European pop culture. Not only the colour but also the shape is often shown blown-up. In Asian culture this is somewhat different. Asian lips are generally smaller, both in reality and in the traditional beauty ideal.
In the paintings small lips symbolise the asian woman and her position in Europe: she has ‘a smaller voice’ and is appreciated for being modest.
Asian beauty ideal on the one hand focuses obsessively on certain aspects like big eyes and a narrow face. On the other hand Asian aesthetics are in search of subtlety, modesty and minimal beauty.
Women of colour?
The position of asian women in Europe is neither native (a double background always remains a challenge, adding difficulty and richness) nor that of women of colour (this is predominantly though not exclusively a reference and narrative used by people of African origin).
Asia is a huge realm with historically only modest exchange with the western world. The asian skin tone (yellow?) stands largely outside the western colonial history and its continuing dialectics.
We are yellow so we eat yellow food. (Chinese people indulging in their destiny)
Racism is a problem of Europeans. But asian people in Europe may also suffer from it. Rather than disrespect they may experience distance and indifference, a lack of knowledge and understanding. They may suffer from isolation and feel voiceless. In the case of women, they may be perceived as lust objects (modest, willing,...) and experience a difficult mental connection.
The paintings often use primary yellow (colour of dynamics) in powerful contrast with blue (introversion) and in a graphically expressive way (powerful lines).