Preface for Zhu Wei's Contemporary Art Exhibition in Taipei 2016
In Chinese contemporary art scene, Zhu Wei's creation is indeed a signature one: on the one hand he sticks to the traditional imperial court (gongbi) painting media and outline-and-color technique; on the other hand he boldly moves away from the traditional fine brush painting's patterns and forms, and created brand new imageries and composition that contain distinct features of the times. There is no doubt that the intercourse between the tradition and present has accomplished his art. For example, from 90s of the last century to today, he has created excellent works like "The Story of Beijing" series, "Sweet Life" series, "The Ink and Wash Research Lectures series", "Vernal Equinox" series and so on. During the process he originated the approach of using processed rice paper with ancient sense as the grounding, he has also successfully created bold soldier, red flag, five pointed star, lattice window, banana leaf and other artistic symbols full of personal features. Actually this is a process that new subjects and new sense, including “socialism experiences”, entered traditional conventions and reshaped them, which is very rare! Today, people seldom talk about the conventional representation problem in Chinese painting when touching Chinese painting and contemporary ink and wash. Some even think that Chinese art has always been emphasizing the conventional representation; it is like this in painting as in opera. Once Mr. Jiang Zhou said in an article that “development of Chinese traditional painting is a process solving the relationship between formula and reality, rather than cancelling the basic formula to rely on because of the existence of this relationship. No formula, no Chinese traditional painting.” I agree to him a lot and here I want to supplement something: the artistic representation formula of traditional fine brush painting not only showed a special aesthetic assumption, but also formed a set of special representation principle and thinking logic. Heritance and development could only be gained through good training up to a precise extent. Looking back to those outstanding painting masters in the history of China, all of them had precisely grasped the traditional formulas before they could create their personal ones. With a profound and overall understanding of the art history of China, Zhu Wei of course knows well about this point. His brilliance lies in that he can on one hand well inherit the representation formula of traditional fine brush painting, while on the other hand well re-construct the new tradition of fine brush painting with new subjects, new ideas and new experiences, which made him feel free to do brand new artistic manifestation. I believe that audiences from home and abroad will all feel that his works are both traditional and contemporary, and world-oriented with Chinese characteristics.
In the new era emphasizing artistic invention and personality expression, Zhu Wei keeps good tension between “creation” and “reservation” which well worth learning from for other painters. The inspiration he gives us is: when seeking for the expression of contemporary life, what's important is not only to inherit the traditional expression, but also to figure out a way to innovate and enrich it. Against the background that contemporary art is going on a globalized homogenous development, this pursuit of differentiation expression is particularly important.
We can fully believe that, from the artist's logic of artistic creation, Zhu Wei's works displayed in this exhibition are actually a reasonable advance based on previous foundations. As we can see, both his new works the "Curtain" series and "The Ink and Wash Research Lectures series" present his customary red curtain symbols. However, except for a few works there is a meeting representative who wears Chinese tunic suit in front of the curtain, more works present either red curtain symbols only, or symbols like sculptures of the former Soviet Union, lamb, Taihu stone, hand, etc. in the foreground. According to the artist's interpretation, here the red curtains imply meeting and inculcation, as well as a special kind of ideology in the modern China, and in these works, the sculptures of the former Soviet Union in the period of socialist undoubtedly symbolizes its tremendous influence on Chinese people; the Taihu stone symbolizes Chinese characteristics and geographical features; lamb symbolizes generations of tamed Chinese people... to save words, I won't explain them one by one. In Zhu Wei's opinion, "Nowadays people are coerced by the ongoing large-scale economic movement, by the commercial Great Leap Forward, and by the inflated exaggerations in commerce, while every family has mortgage loans and inexpensive car, pop music and jazz, computer, cell phone and internet, however, the foundation of the society has never been slightly changed but has been strengthened. This is the present condition of Chinese society which makes people feel helpless." From this perspective it is not difficult for us to understand Zhu Wei's latest installation; that is a number of eyeless and mouthless "animals with human faces" indicating the current living conditions of many Chinese people. They are all with the same feature and look very dull, numb and slow... I believe these works will inevitably arouse interactions and associations from some audiences. Recently he has created several new paintings, which, though are not to be brought to this exhibition, I am paying close attention to. In these works he no longer paints on rice paper or silk but on newspapers that people are very familiar with. Since what he paints are red curtain and related symbols, it is more profound in the expression of concept. People who knows the history of art all knows that the master Picasso and Klee also have done similar experiments, and compared with the latter two whose exploration were purely in forms, Zhu Wei is to emphasize the mind control performed by the manipulated modern medias. It could not be more wrong if someone thinks Zhu Wei's experiment on newspapers is just in the form or material.
Zhu Wei expresses his hope for the future through the brilliant fruits in his painting "Vernal Equinox", which I believe also could be the inner reason why he mixes the seemingly unassociated works in this exhibition.
This serves as the preface.
At Yan An Hotel, Shanghai
January 10, 2016
(First published in www.artron.net, Feb 18 2016)
Born in Jiangxi province in January 1954, Lu Hong was graduated from Hubei Academy of Fine Arts in 1981. Now he is the executive director of United Art museum in Wuhan, visiting professor and master students' supervisor of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Hubei Academy of Fine Arts and school of fine arts in the Central China Normal University, visiting researcher at Hubei Museum of Art, researcher at the National Center for Contemporary Arts, the national First-Class Artist, and a member of the China Artists Association.