© Christopher Pelley  2019

 

Learning From Lei Feng

Shangyuan Art Museum, Beijing

Lei Feng (1940 - 1962) was a soldier in the People's Liberation Army, who, post-mortem, was singled out and promoted as a role model by no less than Mao Zedong himself.  His near mythic acts of kindness (he darned his comrades' socks! he sewed quilts for others! he hauled heavy loads of manure!) earned him a special day on the Chinese calendar.  March 5 is now known as Learn From Lei Feng Day.  During the 5 months in 2015 that I was in Beijing as a resident artist at the Shangyuan Art Museum, I learned that just about everyone has a strong feeling about Lei Feng. He is either seen as the uncomplaining young man who helped old ladies cross the street, or as a propaganda tool minted in the dark times of recent Chinese history - the Cultural Revolution.  His cult has re-emerged and been re-energised in part to combat the excessive selfishness that has come with the current get rich at any cost mentality.  While at Shangyuan I used the popular imagery of this folk hero to explore the often conflicting relationship of China of the 60's and 70's, the period of my own American youth, and the China I witnessed while in residence.

above  Christopher Pelley  Lei Feng From a Distance 2014 temporary installation, Shangyuan Village (Beijing)  each square of this pixelated

image is a 4cmx4cm painted piece of paper

left  Christopher Pelley  He Darned His Comrades' Socks 2014

image is composed of 1200 socks / installed at

Shangyuan Art Museum

right  Christopher Pelley  Shoveling Manure  2014

oil on  metal shovel

below left  Christopher Pelley  He Darned his Comrades' Socks  2014  

below right  Christopher Pelley  Comrades' Socks #8, #9,  2014  chinese ink /rice paper  185cm x65cm.