Fang became famous in the early 1990s for a series of paintings featuring bald-headed men whose expressions were difficult to read— some were either screaming or yawning, others staring blankly or maybe menacingly out at the viewer. This image, too, is ambiguous: the man in the center is clearly exerting himself, but it remains unclear whether he is swimming or being pulled under by the violent waves around him. Fang may be making a commentary on contemporary society and the struggle of the individual to stay afloat within it, but the ultimate meaning of this image remains defiantly unclear.
Acquired at auction, Sotheby's New York on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 [Lot 00178], by the current owner, a private collector in Hong Kong.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China," December 9, 2013–April 6, 2014.