Awash with ideas

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Tong Kunniao. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A new generation of Chinese artists are using the internet to inspire them to break new ground in terms of technique, style and genre.

In 2015, one of artist Tong Kunniao's installation works was bought by a museum director. Ahead of him lay dozens of exhibition invitations and contracts with galleries from both China and abroad. At the age of just 25, Tong was a fresh graduate from the sculpture department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. The same year, one of Tong's counterparts Hao Liang had taken part in several influential shows held at leading Chinese museums and galleries. The 32-year-old ink wash painter had made a big splash a year previously with one of his works fetching 5.6 million yuan ($820,128) at Christie's auction house in Shanghai, a record sum for a living Chinese painter aged under 35.

With support from art institutions, galleries and auction houses, the thriving art market in China over the past decade has provided a healthy environment for artists born after 1985, a generation whose art and thinking has been greatly influenced by the internet and the forces of globalization.

"China's strong economy makes it possible for them to rise to fame early in their careers. They are familiar with the internet and technology, which helps them express their ideas in their artwork," says Zhu Zhu, an independent curator and art critic.

Zhu sees these young artists as "a generation of screeners", who are good at obtaining knowledge from various sources on the internet to produce artworks that focus on their emotions and personalities. Unlike the older generation of Chinese artists whose knowledge systems were built mainly on their life experiences, these young artists are far more familiar with Western art history.

"Due to the internet and globalization, the topics that young artists in China concern themselves with, their selection of artistic mediums and their means of expression mirror those of their peers in the West," Zhu adds.

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