Tradition, Politics, and Homoerotics All Mix in Musk Ming's Art
By Christopher Harrity
With a coyly traditional approach, Musk Ming makes a witty mix of sex and politics. Above: JingYang Mountain
Watercolor on paper, 50x70cm, 2007
Musk Ming, a Berlin-based Chinese artist, has carved out his own way of combining traditional Chinese art with contemporary techniques and Western aesthetics. His works, which have been showcased across Europe and Asia, often reflect an international outlook and cross-cultural perspective. His work is subtly erotic and not afraid to incorporate prickly political points of view.
"Musk Ming" is a pseudonym. “Musk” ("she xiang" in Chinese) is a class of aromatic substance often used in perfumery and Chinese medicine. "Ming" is the artist’s birth name, which translates as “brightness” or “clarity” in Chinese.
In 2005, Musk Ming moved to Berlin, a city whose unique atmosphere of freedom and sexual tolerance contrast wildly with the pressure to conform and the oppression of homosexuals in China. Musk Ming felt truly liberated and decided to follow his artistic impulse. The absence of sexuality in Chinese art and the relatively open approach in the West are brought to the fore in his paintings. Beyond the nudity, however, the focus is always on the relationship between the human, society, and nature. A case in point is the subversive Maoist series, which propagates the idea of a "sexually enlightened chapter" for China, taking humans back to the natural order of things.
In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Musk Ming’s painting Go West, which portrays a group of athletes, was selected for the official Olympic Fine Arts exhibition. But shortly before the show’s opening, the painting was removed by the Chinese authorities on grounds of "unsuitability" of the content.