The Artistry Of Body Painting As A Form Of Contemporary Art Practice In China

With the art of body painting craze growing in China, it’s easy to see how it is perhaps a more “underground” movement, as its models often wear few clothes — a tiny feat still taboo with some of China’s older generations. Emily Aspinall slaps it on!

Picasso, a man of bodily delight. Body painting by Nina Griffee for FaceSlap!, 2019. All rights reserved

The art of body painting is growing ever more popular in China as attitudes towards body image and forms of self-expression rapidly evolve.

As we ponder all things China Underground, plus all things exceptional, we get colorful with sustainable and cruelty-free FaceSlap!, makeup artistry personified and the only international team of expert body painters based in Asia. 

A simple feat, however, this particular form of body art is not. High time to see what’s trending out there. Besides, who needs clothes anyway?

FaceSlap! Kempinski Beijing, MUA: Nina Griffee, Sam Chun and Linda Miao Li. Photography by David Salazar, 2019. All rights reserved
FaceSlap! Kempinski Beijing, MUAs: Nina Griffee, Sam Chun, and Linda Miao Li. Photography by David Salazar, 2019. All rights reserved

Makeup Hacks, No Cracks

The art of makeup goes back thousands of years in Mainland China, way back to when the Earth’s natural resources were used to paint one’s face — peaking of natural beauty, touché — and so one wonders and ponders… What would FaceSlap! consider the ultimate Chinese beauty hack or the ultimate beauty product, today?

Nowadays, in a digital-driven society, we can acquire multiple makeup inspiration sources, whether that’s watching online makeup tutorials, or simply scrolling through China’s Weibo, which is full of elaborate KOLs or influencers.

Griffee and Li recount, “There are two looks within Chinese history that are incredible and remain very much ‘Chinese’ in the way they are used. The first one is not a beauty hack per se, more of a decision, and that is the use of the color red. Bright red is not only a traditional and sacred color but also represents happiness, vigor, and life.

The second is a hairpiece that I think one day will eventually become commoditized, not just for weddings, and that is the Phoenix Coronet (凤冠| fèngguān in Chinese; a phoenix-shaped hat which was worn by the empress and imperial concubines or aristocrat ladies in ancient times). These pieces are not only visually stunning but also incredibly well designed and intricate.”

Body painting is not only a tool of expression but also can be used as an effective promotional tool. Take October 31, probably the most popular fancy-dress date on the western calendar, Halloween — insert #duh. Though the festival is not a Chinese holiday, it is getting bigger and better every year in the East, particularly in its first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing. For many young Chinese, October is filled with dress-up events and celebrations- it’s not only the expat community donning face paint and fluorescent blood but locals too. Chinese towns and cities are being painted red. Literally.

Golden Yoga by MUA Linda Miao Li for FaceSlap!, 2019. All rights reserved
Golden Yoga by MUA Linda Miao Li for FaceSlap!, 2019. All rights reserved

Tin Teasers And Touch-Ups

Body painting. It is pretty much what it reads on the tin, the act of applying make-up to the human body, the makeup is applied directly onto the skin and often the face. Unlike tattoos and piercings, it is a temporary form of expression, combining the meticulous artistry of a painter and the expertise of a makeup artist.

FaceSlap! Limited is the only international team of expert body painters and makeup artists based in Asia. With full-fledged teams circling around across Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Macau, it was founded in 2010 in Beijing. Over the past decade, the company has grown from servicing one city to three cities; the Hong Kong location opened its doors in 2014 and the Shanghai one got up and running in 2017.

All FaceSlap! artists are trained by the company’s directors, pro artist Nina Griffee from the UK and Linda Miao Li from the U.S.

Ever since that first touche éclat touched the skin, the team has body painted for top companies throughout China and Greater China such as Mercedes, Dolce & Gabbana, Corona, Adidas, and Dior. And many mooore — #Qmusic.

Mystique. FaceSlap!, 2019. All rights reserved

Catwalk To Cosplay

The cosplay and festival culture is slowly spilling over into the Middle Kingdom’s urban nightlife, through commercialization in China, like bars, shops and clubs throw themed parties and special events, for all to enjoy. It’s events like these, that celebrate the idea of body paint and self-expression, an official date allowing people to experiment with their self-image.

Trending, yes; lasting… Who knows. Always a touchy topic.

The voices thus start to screech… Is this just a trend or fad? How does FaceSlap! stay abreast of the latest beauty trends. And do they actually believe in them?

As Griffee puts it, “What I love to do is to watch Fashion Week, in general. I keep a diary of the schedule of all the fashion weeks around the world. I like to watch them in order to keep myself inspired and see what’s the latest trend in the industry. I do believe in trends, and trends do exist. But I pick and choose the ones that I like.” Li adds, “I prefer to follow my own style, it’s a hybrid of either the things that I’m happy with right now or in the past. It’s a mixture of things and I think everyone should have their own vision.’’

Faceslap! MUA Nina Griffee for Vogmask, 2014. All rights reserved
Faceslap! MUA Nina Griffee for Vogmask, 2014. All rights reserved

A Slap In The Face Of Smog

Just like other art forms, body painting is inspired by political, social and environmental factors. A significant collaboration occurred between Faceslap! in 2014 when they teamed up with Vogmask.

The collab brought onto the market a new line of outfits that incorporated smog facemasks, first stretching its legs on the Hong Kong Fashion Week. An interesting and relevant statement, no Bambi moments there. Question remains… What exactly inspires one at that point?

Griffee describes, “One of the most fascinating and challenging collaborations would be when I worked as a makeup artist for Hayden Christensen and Nicolas Cage for ‘Outcast.’ Every morning you only get around 30 minutes for hair and makeup and being on set is pretty chaotic. Overall, as a group of artists, our work is inspired and influenced by politics, environmental policy and we convey those messages through art which is how the Vogmask project was instigated.”

 

FaceSlap! continues to boom, and with their sustainable and cruelty-free painting products available to buy, everyone is free to literally transform away. Whether it’s that Picasso| Rubens| whatever floats your female shape boat masterpiece, take it from us…

Out with the face-altering APPs and filters. In with reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS FEATURE WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY EMILY ASPINALL FOR TEMPER MAGAZINE AND HAS BEEN EDITED BY ELSBETH VAN PARIDON FOR CHINA UNDER THE RADAR
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT FACESLAP! VIA IG: @FACESLAP
FEATURED IMAGE: NINA GRIFFEE MUA FOR FACESLAP!, 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
SPOTTED AN ARTISTIC FAIL OR HAVE SOMETHING TO ADD? PLEASE LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW OR EMAIL US AT ELSBETH@CHINAUNDERTHERADAR.COM
COPYRIGHT@CHINA UNDER THE RADAR, 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DO NOT REPRODUCE CHINA UNDER THE RADAR CONTENT WITHOUT CONSENT — EMAIL US AT ELSBETH@CHINAUNDERTHERADAR.COM

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