Yu Youhan (1943-) 余友涵
scan, paper, colour; original source: oil on canvas 100 x 280 cm
China Avant-Garde, edited by Jochen Noth et al., Heidelberg: Brausdruck, 1994; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995:185., Heidelberg catalogue entry
HeidICON Image ID:
Mao Zedong, Mao portrait, symbolism, icons, iconography, hammer and sickle, young Mao, old Mao, children, flowery embroidery, mandarin ducks, phoenix, red, Chinese avantgarde, Pop art, Mao memories
Yu Youhan: Mao in different Stages of his Life (Yu Youhan: Mao Zedong de shengming licheng 余友涵: 毛泽东的生命里程)
Many colourful Maos appear next to each other in the space of one single framed image in Yu Youhan’s 1990 piece Mao in Different Stages of his Life 毛泽东的生命里程. The painting uses several flowery embroidery stencil patterns both as background to and as attire of Mao, juxtaposing him, in several stages of his life (including death) with symbols from radically different iconographic traditions, including mandarin ducks (which stand for happy lovers) and a phoenix, the auspicious ruler among the four magic animals, as well as hammer and sickle.
These very disparate objects are layed out next to each other in this reassertive and positive image, the base colour of which is red, the colour of happiness in China. These objects and symbols are simply juxtaposed but not connected. What exactly does this mean? For Yu, Mao with his many pasts, some of which are depicted in this image, is clearly still a part of China’s present. Yu is quoted as having said: “If we reject Mao, we reject part of ourselves.” (Wu 2005:203) (See also DACHS Continuous Revolution).