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Inscription in this Era


Zhu Zhu


In our tradition, literati had always been good at both writing and painting. However, most artists nowadays have given up the pursuit of writing. As a curator, I felt that if an exhibition requires them to write something, they feel like being tortured. They would rather receive interviews than to face the blank paper alone, as if they were dizzy abysses...

Their reluctance to write reflected the loss of our traditions, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they lack reading; probably they are just too shy of their own words. On one hand, since the inscription on painting is no longer required, they stopped daily exercise in that aspect. Compared with their professional visual technique, their writing appeared more and more amateur. On the other hand, there is an attitude extended from probably the modernism elite consciousness that asks artist to hide behind their works and let the work to manifest itself, leaving a mysterious space that is full of imagination forces between the artist and viewer.

As an ink painter, Zhu Wei treated writing more like a traditional intellectual. In his early works, he retained the tradition of inscription--friend Cui Jian's rock music lyrics or his notes, which are integrated with the pictures. What's more, in recent years, he has written a large number of essays at the invitation of magazines that could be collected to make a volume. For him, "the ancient painters could play musical instruments, write poems or articles, and even went to rich people's house as retainer to talk about sundry stuffs, including astronomy, geography, anecdotes from past and today and the way of being a true man. We contemporary painters don't have those opportunities, but we can do things that the ancient painters can't too. Take me for example, besides painting, I also carve woodprint, make sculpture in the factory, write column essays for art magazines and shoot movie for rock music bands. All these must be the extension of ink painting." The words besides the painting seemed short, cynical and sarcastic, the same as his paintings, that personal tone implied fury and pride of Ba Da Shan Ren (Zhu Da)’s “supercilious look into the sky”, as well as the agility and tease of Jin Nong's Dong Xin’s Inscription on Paintings. If we view it from a literary perspective, he probably inherited the Twenty Years Witness of the Bizarre Present. or Lu Xun's ironic and banter writing style. His expression has rich Beijing tone. Whatever he said is both amusing and thought-provoking. The frequently appeared slangs that the Pekingese always say conspired to the colloquial and vivid effects. I even doubt that he told his ideas to a recording pen first and then transformed that into texts.

For the 30 years of contemporary art, Zhu Wei is a witness, a predecessor as well as a stander-by. In the 1990s when he already had overseas influence and entered the commercial tracks, the majority of Chinese artists were still struggling to survive. However,, with the new century's coming, the whole situation has seen significant changes, which led to his disappointment. He didn't indulge himself in that disappointment, but he began to criticize and ironize both the western and home arts through comparing his personal experience and contemporary art context. Like what I expressed in my article Absent Attendee, 'It is precisely his particular experiences and anxiety, reflection on the price he paid and involvement and witness of contemporary art evolution that resulted in his essay style--aggressive, sharp and extreme." What he highlights is the discourse hegemony of western colonialism:

Over the decades, whether you are vanguard or not, "85" or '"post 89", the peoples who are serious about art and with some culture responsibility are more or less feel depressed. No matter what they may say, their dreams have been shattered. For example, if we visit other people's home, and make a pizza with the flour and eggs we brought and their kitchen appliance. They would praise you if it tastes good. But if you want to make a Jianbing(the Chinese pancake), they would be unhappy immediately.

On the other hand, he became increasingly sensitive and appalled by the colonization trend of the Chinese contemporary art. For example, with an amazed and surprised mood, he discovered that "Richter alone is half of Chinese contemporary art history", and that imitation received great success:

Over 100 Chinese painters imitated Richter’s focus-out approach, however, at the end of last year, the price of Richter’s paintings were not as high as half of Chinese painters', and were also not as well sold as the Chinese painters'…

"The fake" exceeded the genuine painting. In Zhu Wei's view, it's already not worship or imitation, for in which there was still some kind of sincerity and recognition efforts, but the Chinese contemporary art has turned into an anxious trend-following and partial steal, completely failed the research and analysis of western art, but only sought for the crash shaping of "contemporary" look.

As contemporary art was not born in our homeland, the artists, critics, art dealers can only act like what railroad guerrillas did when they were fighting the Japanese intruders--everybody hold a rake, as long as there is train driving near, regardless of the consequences, they use their rake to pull the stuff out of the train, without considering how much they can get.

However, Richter is changing and the western contemporary art is moving forward. For the pace-following Chinese contemporary art, sticking to go along other people's tracks is no doubt a thing without ego and future.

The Chinese contemporary art has been pulling all sorts of things together constrainedly. We are just imitating to make every art form that the western has. In the 21 century, the western contemporary art is progressing rapidly. It's sad that we have no idea what would go in fashion next time and even can do nothing about it.

In those writings, Zhu Wei analyzed the western centralism, the negative impacts of commercialization and a most urgent mission: the remodeling of culture subject. As for his identity, he stressed the significance of rejuvenating ink paintings. Surely, he had made the further recognition that the basis lacked for remodeling is that "today's artists are not strong enough to paint with the strength of their personalities."

  "Art should follow the times;" art should correspond to reality and voice for the society, this has been the consistent claim of Zhu Wei. He is also realizing that claim through writing essays. In contrast with the careful consideration of personal styles and repeated adjustment of an artist in painting, those words are more wild and agile, which inscribed on our times with satire like "cactus spines".


May, 2012


(This article is the preface of Zhu Wei's collection of essays Behind Of Your Time, First Published in Oriental Art . Master, September 2012, p.54-57)

Zhu Zhu, born in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province in September, 1969, is a poet, curator and art critic. The main exhibitions he curated include “Yangtze River Bridge”(2007), “Starting Point:The ‘Stars Art Society ’Retrospective Exhibition”(2007), “Individual Case—Artists in Art Critique”(2008); he also worked as co-curator in the "Reshaping History" exhibition with Lv Peng and Gao Qianhui (2009).


























(本文为即将出版的朱伟艺术随笔集《走在时间的后头》前言, 首次刊发于《东方艺术.大家》2012年9月刊,54-57页