Issue 1: Research Festival

Bad painting appear as a phenomena

Taking “bad painting” as the phenomenon, this paper probes into my artistic methodology.

There are misreadings between cultures. The museum gathers sculptures from different cultures for everyone to visit. As a visitor, it is impossible or even impossible to enter the huge cultural context behind the sculptures in such a short time. As an Oriental, I can clearly feel the discomfort when I see the display way of Oriental cultural relics in western professional museums. Being an Easterner, you can’t really understand the West either. Even if you read between the lines about the West, the East doesn’t have the genes and the blood, the logic of language and the way of thinking. On the other hand, from the perspective of experience, scholars of transnational cultural studies who are well versed in cultural knowledge may not have the same cultural perception and understanding of other countries as illiterate people who were born there if they did not live there. Therefore, in the process of cultural mutual understanding, there are bound to be various misinterpretations. People do not need to fully understand the process of transformation, because the culture of watching others carries a great deal of special information in the process, which deepens the value of the former culture.

Oil painting and contemporary art were also imported into China. During the more than a century since painting was introduced into China along with cultural misinterpretation, the history of Chinese painting and Chinese society has undergone many changes and updates. Under the guidance of China’s special social system, professional fine arts colleges constantly shape the mainstream aesthetic. The history of contemporary Chinese painting also takes place parallel to the “main melody”.To the question “What on earth is art in Chinese society?” This problem can be glimpsed from the phenomenon of “bad paintings” in China.The phenomenon of bad painting gave Chinese painting a release outlet. As far as Chinese tradition is concerned, painting has never been so liberating, and everyone paints what they would not normally dare to paint. It is likely that many people have drew these drafts countless times, but have never put them into a formal creation. Bad paintings give people confidence that they can really paint whatever they want. A bad painting may also reflect a degree of creativity now, which can also be regarded as the development of Chinese painting. It’s a strength, it gives you a certain openness.

“Bad Painting”, as a term of contemporary painting, was born by chance in an exhibition. From January 14 to February 28, 1978, Marcia Tucker curated an exhibition called ‘Bad Painting’ at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. This exhibition gathered 14 little-known American artists. Their works abandoned traditional classical painting forms and reinterpreted the terms “bad” and “humorous” as part of a satirical figurative painting language that reflected the popular photorealism and minimalism of the time. Doctrine challenges. After this exhibition, the phenomenon of “bad painting” has branches in Germany, France, Italy and other places, and it is also regarded as the forerunner of the Neo-Expressionism movement in the 1980s. A certain inevitability is engendered by the times.

The poster of “Bad” Painting
Exhibition Foreword

Along with Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, Werner Büttner led the “Bad Painting” movement in the German art world, with radical and provocative paintings. The method jumped out of tradition and influenced the development of subsequent paintings. During the period of modernism’s emergence as a classic in art history, contemporary painting developed three phenomena: professional, non-professional, and anti-professional. “Professionalism” is seen as a large system of measurement, which has a stable paradigm and has been accepted by society. Then “non-professional” is the party to be measured, living outside of “professional”, while “non-professional” relatively loosely and vaguely continues certain unclear rules, and regards professional as “the other shore”. And “anti-professionalism” goes hand in hand with “professionalism” to some extent, and even takes “professionalism” as a premise, which is a response to it. In this interpretation, “imprecise” is regarded as rigorous, and “unclear” as clear, and a reverse or evasive approach is employed to find a new way to change artistic concepts and aesthetic branches.

Thorn – Good for Life, oil on canvas, 190×150cm, 2018

Bad painting is not a range or style of painting, but a temporary phenomenon. In fact, it does not have much direction, it seems to point to a kind of interest, but it is actually related to the popular conceptual painting before. Usually, when we emphasize concepts, we deny the problems of style and shaping in the past painting practice with a gesture of complete betrayal, and completely lead to the opposite. When a certain type of art in a place reaches a certain degree of saturation and prosperity, there will be a reversal of interest. Bad paintings may originate from what China calls “conceptual painting”. Conceptual painting also has a lot of bad painting habits: well-trained people pretend to be people who can’t paint, look for ambiguous collages in it, and find an intention after a collision. This is the characteristic of Chinese conceptual painting. Bad paintings may follow the superficial situation more, and be more superficial, and use a popular way to wash away the so-called “professionalism” and “popularity”.

Kong Qian/赶龙图/2006/Oil on Canvas/186×150cm

The essence of bad paintings is to refuse to watch, and it is a process. In this process, “bad paintings” are individualized and decentralized. This will inevitably lead to the disintegration of the current “painting” concept and “aesthetic” system, painting will become an action, and the “aesthetic” system of painting needs to be established from vision as the foundation to “behavior” as the foundation, ” The thinking of “process” will inevitably lead to continuous changes in techniques and content. There is no progress and retreat, only confrontation in the current context. The “weapons” of confrontation are obtained and used in the “painting process”. When the precious creative vitality of bad paintings is transformed into the purpose of the picture results, the value of bad paintings also becomes invalid, and it seems to return to the vortex of generating a single discourse hegemony for the purpose of resistance, and finally absorbed by the system, leaving only Lower the value consumed by capital. I have to admit that no matter what kind of “painting” it is, there will be a result of viewing, after all, it belongs to the discussion of visual art. However, with the development of art today, painting no longer bears the mission of art history, and painting can obtain an unprecedented independent power in theory at present. The unprecedented advancement of art history makes the appearance of painting more open and reduces the sublime nature of painting. , into life with a lighter, more real role. Painting reveals the “truth” of the artist and life, and the artist truly enters into art in the state of continuous practice.

Through the analysis and interpretation of bad paintings, when I return to my own painting practice, how the artist obtains the independence of creation is a question that has always surrounded me. As an artist, the significance of the practice itself must be greater than the significance of the creation results. Through a year of creation, “gaining independence” means returning to the painting process in the artist’s own context, breaking through his own context to gain new experience. Therefore, the artist’s “identity” is not eternal or time-sensitive. Once new experience is acquired, a new context will inevitably be created, and the artist will constantly break and deny the “identity”, falling into a cycle. Bad paintings, as a way of thinking, are the evidence that the artist destroys himself and creates new contexts time and time again. The problems that have been solved or to be solved one by one return to the painting practice again and again, and at the same time return to the “individual experience”. Practice forms fragments of problems, and the fragments build a network-like structure. Artists constantly practice and negate between materials and problems, forming infinity. Re-changing the “painting” mode is fundamental, this is a reflection on the “process”, not a discussion on the result.


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Available at: (Accessed: November 15, 2022). 

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About the author

Wenjie Pan graduated from Camberwell MA Fine Art: Painting in 2022.