Geng Jianyi has been awarded the CCAA Lifetime Contribution Award for the 2012 Chinese Contemporary Art Awards. Considering the contemporary art world being ever more subsumed by fashion, speed, short attention spans, the ups and downs of global financial capital and politics, this jury wishes to award a unique artist of outstanding artistic achievement whose work has not been, until recently, researched and appreciated and whose oeuvre offers many further opportunities for research.
As a practitioner of Chinese contemporary art for over thirty years, Geng Jianyi has moved beyond the limits of his times in many ways, confronting different historical and social orders and exploring the nature of subjectivity through diverse media, materials and techniques including painting, print‐making, artists books, video, installation and performative actions involving other persons and his relations with others. In a world characterized by a sense of provisionality and precariousness, of anonymity and plural subjectivity, Geng Jianyi has evoked and subtly verified the fragile yet transformative potential of the singular subject in an urgent, unadulterated, perceptive and imaginative manner. Through the notion of the repeated gesture and form, of the print, and of the imprint, the philosophical dimensions of his work allude to the paradox of repetition and uniqueness, as well as to the exercise of individuation such as when one attempts to copy and imitate one’s own gestures of daily, repetitive labour in an act of commitment and practice. His distancing from doctrinal definitions, fashionable trends, and mainstream institutions has helped over the years to sustain a sense of autonomy, therefore forming the basis of an individual journey in an age that is without epic but may be with poetry – beset by contingencies and necessities.