Young artist paints epic sci-fi future of China in 2098
Published: May 22, 2022 06:25 PM
An artwork created by Fan Wennan in his China 2098 art collection Photo:Courtesy of Fan

An artwork created by Fan Wennan in his China 2098 art collection Photo:Courtesy of Fan

"It was inspired by China's history of striving since 1949 and aims to  become a collection that embodies the Chinese national spirit," Fan Wennan, a young yet prominent Chinese artist, said while talking about the inspiration behind his epic digital painting series China 2098.  

China 2098 is a series of 30 digital paintings that depict an imaginative sci-fi future for China.

Fan explained to the Global Times that the series can be divided into five general sections such as the portrayal of a dam construction project in the East China Sea, the "Sayram Lake" project that depicts East-West water diversion and also a space project. 

Fan's arts scrutinize Chinese solutions to imagined global crises in 2098. 

Taking the "dam project" as an example, affected by melting glaciers, global sea levels have risen sharply; and facing disaster, China and its neighbors in Northeast Asia have jointly built giant dams to restore the previously submerged coastline. 

Such concepts have been transformed into huge landscapes, within which Fan sticks to his concrete structure-based painting style, but carefully adds amazing details to these massive structures. These paintings are adorned with very Chinese elements such as the National flag and patriotic slogans on the walls to encourage workers in blue jumpsuits. 

Fan explained that while many viewers commented that his works give a somewhat Soviet impression; his goal is to discuss the future of humanity in the socialist context with Chinese characteristics. 

"Each work is like a representative highlight of the aspect of an imagined future," Fan noted. 

"I tried to visualize the socialist ideal through artistic creation."

Starting his project at the end of 2019, Fan, then an undergraduate student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, carried out in-depth research on Chinese history and culture to feed his grand imagination. 

He explained that the two Chinese fables "Yugong Yishan" ("Foolish" Old Man Moves the Mountain) and "Dayu Zhishui" (Yu the Great Conquers the Floods) were great sources of inspiration. Both stories discuss how wisdom and devotion to hard work day and night finally accomplishes great deeds.  

"I've also studied the water conservation construction in China and investigated the evolution of global coastlines and glacial landforms from the last glacial maximum 20,000 years ago to the present."

Taking more than three years to complete, Fan's series was finally released in full in April. Previously, seven of the works had been published online in 2020. These paintings stunned netizens, including China's famous illustrator team Wuheqilin. 

"Look at this remarkable young man," Wuheqilin commented on Sina Weibo. 

Netizens have described Fan's works as "socialist cyberpunk" and "red punk," while others have noted that these futuristic-oriented epic paintings have their roots in Chinese cultural confidence. 

"The comments are great, but I want to emphasize that we shouldn't forget what we have been through nor underestimate ourselves too much," Fan told the Global Times. 

Fan also revealed to the Global Times that the series was created under the huge impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering this context, some people questioned whether it was inappropriate to depict China conquering such disasters, but these comments did not shake his determination. 

"In addition to recognizing that grand narratives can effectively depict imagined extreme disasters, I hope my work will make us appreciate the present moment," Fan emphasized.

The artist also revealed that China 2098 is now on the track to be adapted into a sci-fi film in five years.