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Forging a creative time

Updated: 2024-04-12 07:41 ( CHINA DAILY )
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Cover of a folk paper-cut album designed by Qian Juntao in 1950. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The drawing is one of more than 200 paintings, posters, photos, documents, publications and other historical materials on display at The Sources of Contemporary Design in China, an exhibition at the Art Museum of Central Academy of Fine Arts, which runs through to April 21.

The exhibition focuses on painting an overall picture of Chinese design — including graphic, industrial and urban planning — between 1945 and 1959, a period of dramatic social change in which artists and designers like Jia started revolutions, and their work, under the banner of "Chinese style", helped usher the country into industrialization.

Jin Jun, director of the CAFA art museum and the exhibition's academic host, says that in a profound way, the exhibits reflect the social and cultural scene spanning the 15 years before and after the founding of People's Republic of China in 1949, from the perspective of design.

"From books and clothes to cars, these excellent designs were used in both daily life and industry, and played a vital role in the course of modernization," Jin says.

The exhibition begins with the review of design in the second half of the 1940s. Triumphant following the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), China was at the dawn of embracing a new era. In liberated areas, artists under the leadership of the Communist Party of China used forms of folk art, such as nianhua (New Year paintings), to design posters promoting revolutionary ideas. In other parts of the country, the recovery of industry and commerce gave rise to a group of designers who embraced modernist ideas and designed in tune with global trends. The exhibition's juxtaposition of the work of these two groups demonstrates the diversity in design and the cultural vigor of the time.

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