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Preface II

- - for "Virtual Focus: Zhu Wei 1987-2017" at the National Museum of Indonesia


Lu Hong


I studied Gongbi in college and participated in several national exhibitions with my Gongbi works after graduation. I've consistently been concerned about Gongbi for years, but frankly speaking, things hasn't been going well. First of all, many painters still use traditional techniques and patterns when they are "creating". Their paintings, as a result, comprise of plants, birds, fishes or insects composed according to prior patterns. Some even just consists of magnified parts of prior Gongbi paintings without novelty and individuality. Secondly, Influenced by the western realist movement, some painters have undertaken a re-evaluation of our objective visual language and effect. More specifically, they use not only prior techniques of traditional Chinese painting, but also western techniques such as chiaroscuro and measurement which are used in perspective drawings. Despite their counter-traditionalist "Gongbi" painting, these painters have frequently been awarded numerous prize at national competitions and awards, misleading many younger artists from the true essence of the style. Anyone who understands Gongbi knows that Gongbi, together with Xieyi, naturally emphasizes on conveying spirit, although it uses highly detailed brushstrokes that delimits details very precisely, which is the opposite to the interpretive and freely expressive Xieyi style. Famous paintings such as Stroll About in Spring and Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk, and many outstanding paintings of painters in the Song Dynasty all are good illustrations of this point. In fact, when it comes to depicting objects, "virtuality" still exists in Gongbi paintings. For example, the composition and presentation of Lotus is very different from that of photos of lotus, because the painting, with its abundant white space, is the subjective product of the painter. I believe that artists will borrow from western realistic paintings with caution after they have real understanding of this point. Thirdly, since 1980s, some painters are influenced by western realistic painters, such as Gericault and Dalí, so that the modeling, composition and techniques they've used are similar to those of western painters. Even though these artists highlight "virtuality", their exploration into the technique is less than satisfactory as many aesthetic features of Gongbi are erased after they paint perspective images with the use of rendering rather than lines. I realized from the study of traditional Gongbi that the skeleton of Gongbi, namely what is defined as a line, is purely a product of mind as it is extracted by an artist from objective subject; aesthetically, it is more suitable for it to be performed on a flat surface with ornamentation and exaggeration; besides, as auxiliary means for lines, coloring and rendering must be in harmony with lines while paining Gongbi, as the overemphasis of "three sides and five shades" and changes in warm and cold colors will certainly weaken the expressive force of lines, making Gongbi akin to the 80s pen drawing prevalent during festive seasons, reducing the aesthetic merits of the technique to nothing. It is from the abovementioned angle that I acknowledge the artistic exploration conducted by artist Zhu Wei. In my opinion, he not only uses materials of traditional Gongbi or relevant delineating and dying techniques skillfully but also has boldly transcended the artistic pattern and stereotyped style of traditional Gongbi, using reality as a tool to create works imbued with distinctive yet fresh take on the style. I even think that his weaving between tradition and now helps him make a career. Zhu Wei has painted The Story of Beijing Series, Sweet Life Series, China Diary Series, Ink and Wash Research Lectures Series and Vernal Equinox Series since 1990s. And he created a method of Using antique finish of ripe Xuan paper and personalized symbols, such as bald solider, red curtain, star, grille and banana leaf. These are unquestionably the integration of new theme, new feelings including "socialistic experience" and traditional Gongbi. It is also a process of remolding Gongbi. At present, on mentioning contemporary Gongbi, people seldom talk about stylization. Some even believe that stylization is the reason for the routinism of Gongbi. That is quite a misconception. Actually, compared with western art, Chinese art, including painting, drama and etc., generally emphasizes stylization. To a large extent traditional Gongbi reflects a peculiar aesthetic assumption and brings about an atypical system of presenting and thinking. Only after relentless training and practicing, can painters master techniques and then improve those techniques. Throughout the history of Chinese art, all great painters have mastered traditional patterns and then created the painting pattern of their own. Zhu Wei, as a man who is familiar with the history of Chinese art, has took notice of this. And he, as a painter, not only knows about traditional patterns of Gongbi, but also remold them with new themes, new concepts and new experience, making him a master in both expression and painting. Regardless if one is Chinese or not, anyone can see that Zhu Wei's paintings have both traditional as well as contemporary characteristics. They are paintings with not only Chinese charateristics, but also international features as well.

In an era of novelty and individuality, Zhu Wei carefully balances "innovation" with "tradition". His exploration is invaluable to his contemporaries. We can learn from him that it is essential to preserve tradition and to try to innovate at the same time when we want to express ourselves, which is very important nowadays when similarity emerges in the contemporary art world.

As Seen from the chronology of his works, we can absolutely believe that the works of Zhu Wei displayed in this exhibition are actually reasonable advancement based on the past. As we can see that his new works Curtain Series and Ink and Wash Research Lectures Series all feature a red curtain, which he uses frequently. Interestingly, except a few works where there are meeting representatives in Chinese tunic suit in foreground, more of his works only paint the red curtain or present Taihu stone, goat and palm, banana and figures from the former Soviet Union in foreground. According to the explanation of the artist himself, here red curtain implies place and context as well as recent China and its special ideology, while Taihu stone symbolizes ancient traditions which still influence today's people; goat and palm stand for generations of tamed Chinese people. In addition, the banana is a metaphor for a man who is a westerner inside but a Chinese outside, which stresses the relationship between Western ideology and China's reality; The Silent Night No. 1 and The Silent Night No. 2 which use the scene of troops review in Red Square and Lenin's mausoleum undoubtedly symbolize their great impact on China. To my understanding, the artistic conception of these two works is exactly the same as what he presents by painting figures in the former Soviet Union in the red curtain…which I will not further elaborate in this essay. Zhu Wei once said that, "although people of today are compelled by ongoing massive economic movement, commercial leaps and various commercial satellites and every family has mortgage, ugly car, pop music and jazz, computer, cellphone and the internet now, but the foundation of this society remains completely unchanged, possibly even led to further fortifications. That is current social situation of China which makes people feel helpless." From this, it is not difficult to understand the connotations of Zhu Wei's works. Also, I'd like to mention that Zhu Wei drew a batch of paintings recently, which deeply attracts my attention for he no longer painted with ripe Xuan papers and silks in these works, but adopted the common newspaper. His works are more profound in the expression of ideas through his usage of the red curtains and relevant symbols in these works. People who are familiar with art history all know that great masters Picasso and Huang Keli have performed similar art experiments. In comparison, the latter two are pure exploration in form, whereas Zhu Wei utilized this to stress the control of modern media over people's ideology. So, one is making a big mistake if he or she thinks Zhu Wei's painting with newspaper is just a play with forms and materials.

In his painting Vernal Equinox, those fruits convey Zhu Wei's hope for the future. As for me, that is why he decides to display his seemingly disparate paintings on one exhibition.


8th May, 2017

Overseas Chinese Town, Wuhan


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, professor and master students' supervisor of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and Hubei Academy of Fine Arts, researcher of the National Center for Contemporary Arts, visiting researcher in Hubei Museum of Art, the national First-Class Artist, and a member of the China Artists Association.












我读书时学的是工笔画,毕业后还曾经以这一画种从事创作参加过几届全国美展。因为有这一背景,很多年来,我对工笔画创作一直是很关注的。不过,恕我直言,整体情况并不乐观:首先,有很多人基本上是沿用传统工笔花鸟画的图式与技巧进行所谓“创作”。故在他们的画中,至多是将花、鸟、鱼、虫与树移来移去,再就是将古代工笔画中的局部放大或加以拼凑等等,丝毫不见任何任何新意与个人的独特感受;其次,因受西方写实主义绘画的影响,长期以来,另有一些人追求的是客观再现的视觉效果。具体地说,这些人的画虽然在勾线、染色上借鉴了传统,但在图像的获取上运用的却是强调透视的西式定点写生法。更有甚者,竟然运用明暗法处理画面。问题在于,在国家级大展中,此类与传统美学追求背道而驰的工笔画作品竟屡屡得大奖,结果也误导了不少青年艺术家。但凡了解传统工笔画的人都知道,相对于传统写意画,工笔画的确更加重视对客观物象的模拟,可与传统写意画一样,它在本质上更强调对现实的超越和处理,并否认对现实形态的绝对性呈现。象历史上著名的《游春图》、《捣练图》以及宋人的大量优秀花鸟画作品无不如此。其实,即便是模拟客观对象,中国传统工笔画也是以“虚拟性”为前提的,比如宋画中的《芙蓉图》在图像与构图处理上,与一些人根据照片所画的荷花绝对不一样,因为其是经过主观处理过的,而且出现在了留有空白的底子上。我想,艺术家们只要真正理解了这一点,肯定会更加谨慎的对待如何借鉴西方写实主义艺术的问题;再其次,上个世纪80年代以降,还有一些人由于受了西方超画实主义艺术家,如解里柯、达立等人的影响,在画面上更多使用了和他们相似的造型、构图与处理方式。当然 ,他们也是在强调“虚拟性”,但不足之处为,他们在废掉线条的表现功能后,改而使用了传统的渲染法去描画立体的图像,这就在很大程度上消解了工笔画的审美特征,是绝对得不偿失的探索。从对传统工笔画的研究中,我体会到:工笔画的骨架,即所谓线条纯为主观产物,它是艺术家从客观对象上提练出来的。从美学的角度讲,它更适合在平面上展开,同时进行装饰性、夸张性的处理;再者,作为线条的辅助性手段,在工笔画创作中,着色和渲染必须与线条的处理相谐调,如果过分强调三面五调与冷暖色彩的变化,必然会削弱线条的表现力,以至使工笔画成为擦笔年画,于是,工笔画的独立审美价值也就不复存在了。正是从以上角度出发,我高度肯定艺术家朱伟的艺术探索。在我看来,他不仅很好运用了传统工笔画的媒材或相关勾线与染色技巧,还大胆超越了传统工笔画的艺术图式与造型套路,即直接从现实中转换出了具有鲜明时代特点的全新图像与画面构成方式。我甚至认为,恰恰是往来于传统和现在之间才成就了他的一番事业。资料显示,朱伟从上个世纪90年代到现在,已经分别创作了《北京故事》系列、《甜蜜的生活》系列、《中国日记》系列、《水墨课徒研究》系列与《开春图》系列等优秀作品。而且,他在独创了将熟宣纸做旧的手法时,还成功地创造了光头男(军)人、大红帷幕、五角星、格子窗、芭蕉叶等具有个人特点的艺术符号。毫无疑问,这是新的艺术题材与新的感受——包括“社会主义经验”进入传统工笔画程式,继而对其进行改造的过程,是非常难得的!现如今,人们在谈及当代工笔画的创作时,一般很少提到程式化表现的问题。有些人甚至认为,程式化表现是传统工笔画走上千篇一律道路的原因。这当然是极大的误解。事实上,与西方艺术相比,中国艺术一向十分强调程式化的表现。绘画如此,戏剧亦然。在很大程度上,传统工笔画的艺术表现程式既体现了特殊的审美假定性,也形成了一套特殊的表现原则与思惟逻辑。只有很好地加以训练,然后达到精确的地步,才有可能继承与发展。纵观那些中国艺术史上的优秀绘画大师,无不是精确掌握了传统程式,又创造出个人化程式的人。熟读中国艺术史的朱伟当然知道这一点,他的过人之处就在于:不但很好地继承了传统工笔画的表现程式,还用新的题材、新的观念、新的感受重构了工笔表现的新传统,这就使他能从容自如地进行全新的艺术表现。相信中外观众都会感到他的作品既是传统的,又是当代的;既是中国的,又是世界的。