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Art Watch : Mu Boyan

Mu Boyan is our Art Watch Artist for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across nay discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

Mu Boyan is a contemporary Chinese sculptor who explores obesity in modern China through his works. His life size and small-scale sculptures of obese men engaged in various mundane, everyday and often imaginative activities and scenarios – sometimes seeming to ‘fail’ at these activities is what makes him an Artist to watch!

Boyan born in 1976 in Shandong Province, China, at a time when China was on the precipice of change. However it was an ancient culture that was steeped in traditional values and practices. Over the years the notion of bodies and positive body image has changed the world over. It has raised questions of health, fitness etc. It has raised concerns and has been much debated about for the last two decades. But for Boyan he comes from an Eastern culture where ones economic status is reflected in their physicality.

Why Mu Boyan?

It is quite clear that having a chiseled body may be a physical ideal, and extremely desirable in the modern times, but it must be remembered that being ‘fat’ was once considered a natural beauty in China and some other cultures as well.  As early as Han Dynasty, the rounded figures used to be desired. And in the early to mid 1900s, when wars were fought across the nation, being fat was once considered a sign of being “well fed,” for men. Clearly. Women must never have an ounce of weight.

Gradually this notion has worn off. The “Fatty” sculptural series by Chinese artist which depicts a naked male figure in unimaginable positions, questions the misnomers and the bizarre aspect of several practices. He deliberately posts his figures in the most ludicrous positions – which they cannot obviously accomplish, safe lying down. One of the figures is seen hanging onto a ledge and would not let go, showing a poignant and disturbing desperation. Also noticeable – is the inscrutable expressions which too were a part of the culture, that emotions must not be betrayed. The rounded chubbiness flaunts a pretending youth. 

Some art critics see the figure as that of sumo wrestler, however it is highly doubtful that a Chinese artist would be referencing sports culture from Japan.

Boyan went on to receive a master’s degree in fine art from the sculpture department of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2005. Mu lives and works in Beijing, China.


For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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