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Asian Art News 香港《亚洲艺术新闻》

Volume 15 Nomber 3

MAY/JUNE 2005 二零零五年五/六月刊



Volume 15 Number 3, MAY/JUNE 2005  

Illustrations for the large picture in the first page:

Left: Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #4, 2004, artist proof 1/4, 4 panels. An original 20-color, staining, woodcut, lithograph, and screenprint on four sheets of STPI handmade white cotton paper, printed from 56 woodblocks, 3 aluminum litho plates, and 7 screens. 281.9 x 287 cm (111 x 113 inches). All photographs: Courtesy of Singapore Tyler Print Institute.


Illustrations in the second page (left):

Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #5, 2004, artist proof 1/4, 6 panels. An original 20-color, staining and woodcut on six sheets of STPI handmade white cotton paper, printed from 116 woodblocks. 288.3 x 425.5 cm (113.5 x 167.5 inches).


Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #6, 2004, edition of 20. An original soft ground etching, woodcut, and stencil on TGL handmade light yellow cotton paper, printed from one copper plate, one woodblock, and two stencils. 80 x 108 cm (31.5 x 42.5 inches).


Illustrations on the last page (left: from up to down):

Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #10, 2004, edition of 20. An original soft ground etching with relief inking and chine colle on STPI handmade cotton and Kozo paper, printed from one shaped copper plate. Vintage kozo fiber, purchased by Ken Tyler from Asao Shimura in 1979; hand-cooked and hand-processed by STPI (Richard Hungerford, assisted by Gordon Koh, Tamae Iwasaki, and Eitaro Ogawa) in 2003. 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 inches).

Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #11, 2004, edition of 20. An original soft ground etching, stencil with relief inking and Fujimori paper chine colle on STPI handmade paper, printed from one shaped copper plate and one stencil. 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 inches).

Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #3, 2004, edition of 20. An original 10-color, staining and woodcut on STPI handmade white cotton paper, printed from 21 woodblocks. 101.6 cm (40 inches) diameter.

Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #12, 2004, edition of 20. An original soft ground etching, stencil with relief inking and chine colle on STPI handmade cotton and Kozo paper, printed from 2 shaped copperplates and 3 stencils. Vintage kozo fiber, purchased by Ken Tyler form Asao Shimura in 1979; hand-cooked and hand-processed by STPI(Richard Hungerford, assisted by Gordon Koh, Tamae Iwasaki, and Eitaro Ogawa) in 2003. 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 inches).

Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #13, 2004, edition of 20. An original soft ground etching with Chiri bark paper chine colle on STPI handmade cotton paper, printed from one shaped copperplate. 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 inches).

Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #8, 2004, edition of 20. An original soft ground etching, split bite etching, aquatint, stencil with relief inking and Philippine Gampi paper chine colle on STPI handmade cotton paper, printed from 2 shaped copperplates and one stencil. 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 inches).

(Right: from left to right):

Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #1, 2004, edition of 20. An original 12-color, staining, stencil, woodcut, lithograph, and screenprint on STPI handmade white cotton paper, printed from 4 stencils, 25 woodblocks, 1 aluminum litho plate, and 3 screens. 127 x 101.6 cm (50 x 40 inches).

Zhu Wei, New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #2, 2004, edition of 20. An original 14-color, staining, stencil, woodcut, lithograph, and screenprint on STPI handmade white cotton paper, printed from 4 stencils, 31 woodblocks, 1 aluminum litho plate, and 3 screens. 127 x 101.6 cm (50 x 40 inches).


Extravagant Ways

By Jonathan Thomson


As a leading Chinese artist, Zhu Wei has challenged orthodoxy for many years. His vision often seems anguished and alienated, personal and political at the same time. His last two collections of prints have confirmed him as one of the outstanding artistic voices of his generation.


The American master-printmaker Kenneth E. Tyler’s working philosophy was shaped by a rather self-evident remark made by William Lieberman, director of prints and drawings at the Museum of Modern Art, during a lecture at the University of Southern California in 1965 - "great art is made by great artists." Tyler decided "great prints are only by great artists" and then set out to encourage the greatest artists of the day to work with him. Tyler established his own print workshop, Gemini Limited, in Los Angeles, in 1965 and later, in 1974, moved to New York State and established Tyler Graphics at Mount Kisco. He succeeded brilliantly and developed complex long-term relationships with artists such as Frank Stella, Josef Albers, Helen Frankenthaler, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, and Roy Lichtenstein, and many others. Tyler, through his technical genius, was able to push the artist/master-printmaker collaboration to extraordinary heights.


In the 1990s Tyler mooted the idea of establishing an organization in Singapore dedicated to fostering printmaking, papermaking, and paper-based art practice, collection, and education. This idea received enthusiastic support and the dynamic Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) was born and is now housed in a renovated 19th-century warehouse at Robertson Quay. In 2000, six young local Singaporean printmakers spent four months training with Tyler in New York. STPI includes an array of printing and papermaking equipment from Tyler Graphics. It has fully equipped printmaking workshops, a professional art gallery, and a papermaking facilities to cover the full spectrum of development of prints and paper art. It offers artists the full range of print processes including intaglio, lithography, woodcut, screen printing, relief printing, and monotype printing. Inspired by Tyler’s example, it encourages artists to make prints that are innovative and technically challenging.


In March and April 2004, Chinese artist Zhu Wei, who was born in Beijing in 1966, was invited by the STPI to collaborate with its international printmaking and papermaking team. The result is a series of work that draws on some of the artist’s familiar motifs, but which presents them in entirely new ways. Not least, Zhu was able to work on a much larger scale than ever before and his work is technically much more complex. In 2003, he had exhibited a series of woodblock prints in New York and Hong Kong which were graphically very powerful, but which did not push the boundaries of the medium. All of the works in this earlier series, titled Another Perspective, were carved out of a single block and printed in black. The images were made up of their power from the evident violence with which the artist had attacked the block.


His new series of works, with the wonderful title New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre, commands attention with monumental scale and vivid, hard-edge, bright color. New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #4, some 2.8 meters square, took up an entire section of wall at his Hong Kong exhibition at Plum Blossoms Gallery. [There was a concurrent exhibition at STPI]. The image is of a man, grimacing, with eyes screwed shut, elevating his face into a downpour of rain. The rain splashes and scatters off his clenched teeth. In the background is another figure in a similar pose but without definition of features or expression. The image is an articulation of frustration, angst, pain, or helplessness but with what or why, we can only guess.


The image is actually made up of four sheets of softly textured paper, each printed right to the edge and hung close together with their edges butting up against one another. The figures are outlined in a series of sweeping, curved lines which delineate the edges of brightly colored blocks of pure pigment. Closer examination of the image reveals a variety of surface finishes and textures. The label spells out the reason for this. It explains that the print comprises 20 colors, staining, woodcut, lithograph, and screenprint from 56 woodblocks, three aluminum litho-plates, and seven screens, all on handmade STPI white cotton paper. Drawing attention to the detail of how the print was actually made is presumably a consequence of the collaborative process.


The process begins with the selection of the paper. The STPI has its own facilities including pulp beaters and hydraulic presses which enables it to make it own paper with particular qualities and in unusual sizes and shapes. The papers used by Zhu are brilliant white and have a soft-textured appearance that appears to respond differently to different printing media. The next stage involves staining the entire paper surface with a weak, watery-brown pigment in a lattice shape. This effect is accomplished by dipping a wooden lattice in the pigment and then transferring it by hand to the paper. No mechanical process is necessary as the wet pigment simply bleeds into the soft paper. This lattice effect is sought by the artist as it replicates the rubbing effect achieved in his paintings when he paints them on the tiled floor or walls of his studio.


The wood used by Zhu in making his woodblocks is actually medium-density fiberboard or MDF which has a variety of trade names, one of the most common being craftwood. It is a type of hardboard, made form wood fibers glued together under heat and pressure. It is dense, flat, and stiff, has no knots or grain, is evenly textured and is easily machined. Because it has no grain, it can be cut, drilled, machined, or gouged without damaging, chipping or splitting the surface. It is made up of fine particles that result in a very even surface with good adhesion when inked for woodblock printing. The artist transfers his design onto large sheets of MDF and then cuts it into individual blocks using a jigsaw. Each of these blocks is then inked separately with the desired color and fitted back into position, much like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. The blocks are not butted up against one another, but are kept 1-2 millimeters apart (1/16th inch) being the width of the cut. When printed, this gap is left as a line of white paper between each different color. This gap is accentuated by the way the ink forms a slight pressure ridge at the edge of each block. Similarly, the gouges cut into the blocks, representing the rain, do not take the ink and are left as white.


The image is given a distinctively Chinese appearance by the use of highly stylistic Chinese cloud scroll motif in yellow outlined in black. This device is traditionally used to represent the celestial realm, a reminder that the Emperor was the Son of Heaven. Yellow was also seen as the imperial color in China as the Emperor stood at the center of the universe. In Chinese symbolism yellow is also associated with black as its opposite and complement. It represents the earth emerging from the primeval waters with rain as the evidence of celestial influence. These symbols may explain why Zhu’s work is often regarded as having a political edge and as making a satirical social commentary. The frustration, angst, pain, or helplessness expressed by the figure may be his response to contemporary authority.


However, this analysis may be reading too much into the image. Rather than having overt political connotations, the work may simply be a more personal expression. In contemporary China, clouds are also symbolic of good fortune and happiness. The dichotomy between the symbolism of the cloud and the rain, and the expression of the figures, may be more closely allied to personal circumstances than political ones. An earlier version of this same work, Woodblock No.4, from his Another Perspective series does not include any clouds or rain. It simply depicts two people venting their emotions. Support for the notion that these works may be autobiographical comes from the fact that the figure, with its large dome-shaped, close-cropped head, bears a striking resemblance to Zhu Wei himself.


A series of bright red screen-printed chops also serve to support this latter reading. One simply reads Zhu Wei Ink Painting which is the artist’s assertion of authorship. Others read Grow with Time and Eight or Nine out of Ten which surely indicates the artist’s personal involvement and critique of his image-making. It is a measure of the humility of Zhu Wei the man that he acknowledges the possibility of improvement in his work.


Other smaller works in the present series share motifs and technique. New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #1 reiterates the artist’s homage to those that suffered during the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 when 8,098 people became sick with the illness and 774 died, mostly in Hong Kong and China. His image depicts a man wearing a surgical mask, eyes screwed up shut in grief or pain. The variety of techniques used in the making of this image are perhaps more evident than in the larger works. The different qualities of different colors of ink are clearly evident. Some are translucent, allowing the stained tile-effect grid to show through, others are more opaque. The mask itself is not over-printed at all, allowing the stained-grid pattern to represent the weave of the mask.


New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre #2 depicts a number of hands held up in a salute. The salute appears to be directed at the yellow-and-black cloud scroll motif in the background. The salute is actually the sign language handshape for "I Love You" used by hearing-impaired people. It combines the letters I, L and Y into one handshape by extending the thumb, forefinger, and little finger, and bending the middle and ring finger to the palm (and is not to be confused with the two horns of the devil handshape so beloved by George W. Bush). To whom is the sign directed? It is not outward to the viewer, a fact emphasized in another work which depicts the back of the head and shoulders of two fingers making the sign. The only conclusion is that the sign is directed to the clouds, either as symbols of good fortune and happiness (a positive, personal reading), or the State (a rather more perplexing, political one).


The largest work is printed on six sheets of paper and is overall 4.25 meters (14 feet) wide. It is an image of two nearly identical women’s faces in right profile, staring fixedly at something outside the image. The image is so large that in the confines of the gallery it is difficult to get an overall impression of it. Its scale underlines the flatness of the work which also becomes the dominant emotion. The flatness is almost numbing and is further emphasized by the almost demonic intensity of the women’s stares. They are transfixed by what they see and are not capable of registering anything else.


While in residence at STPI, Zhu Wei also made a series of eight etchings. True to Tyler’s philosophy, these were not simply etchings but were much more technically complex and combined etching with woodcut, stencil, aquatint, relief inking, and chine colle in a variety of different combinations. Unlike the woodblock prints which get their power from forms and color, these prints depend much more on line. Despite the variety of surface effects, the overall result is rather simplistic as Zhu’s figures are reduced to an almost cartoon-like shorthand. Notwithstanding, the time spent by Zhu Wei at the STPI was hugely rewarding. The tremendous power of his monumental woodblock prints will be long felt.


Jonathan Thomson is the Hong Kong contributing editor of Asian Art News and World Sculpture News.



香港《亚洲艺术新闻》 20055/ 6  

 标题左图说明文字:朱伟,新二刻拍案惊奇之四,2004 年,艺术家收藏 1/4,四板。原作20色,染色、木版画、平版印刷画和丝网印刷在四张新加坡泰勒版画研究院手工白棉纸上,由56块木刻版、三张铝平版印刷板和七张丝网印制。281.9´287厘米(111´113英寸)。全部照片均由新加坡泰勒版画研究院免费提供。  


3图说明文字:朱伟, 新二刻拍案惊奇之六,2004年,印数20。原作软底蚀刻,木版画和模版在泰勒基米尼(意译为双子宫)有限公司手工淡黄棉纸上,由一张铜板、一块木版和两张模版印制。80´108厘米(31.5´42.5英寸)。 









奢侈的方式  作者:约翰逊-汤姆森 


美国版画大师肯尼斯-泰勒的创作哲学来源于现代艺术博物馆版画及绘画主任威廉-李伯曼于1965年在南加州大学的一次演讲中一句不言而喻的话 - “伟大的艺术是伟大的艺术家创造的”。泰勒于是乎断定“伟大的版画是伟大的艺术家造就的”,并开始鼓励当代最伟大的艺术家们与他合作。泰勒于1965年在洛杉矶建立了他自己的版画工作室 - 基米尼(意译为双子宫)有限公司,并于1974年搬至纽约州并在基斯克山创立泰勒平面艺术(公司)。他获得了辉煌的成功,并与诸如弗兰克-斯代拉、约瑟夫-埃尔博斯、海伦-弗兰肯塞勒、大卫-赫克尼、杰斯珀-约翰斯、埃尔斯沃斯-凯利、罗毅-利西丹斯坦以及其他众多艺术家们,建立起长期密切的,多种多样的合作关系。泰勒依靠他在技巧上的禀赋,得以把这种艺术家和版画大师的协作推向一个又一个崭新的高峰。







运用典型中国画云的手法 - 黄色的卷形图案和黑色的轮廓,图像被赋予了明显的中国风格。这一纹章传统上被用于描绘天国,暗示皇帝是天子。黄色也是传统中国帝王御用的颜色,而皇帝则处于宇宙之中心。在中国的符号体系中黑色亦经常和黄色同时出现,以互为对应或补充。它代表地球从太古的水域中浮现,而雨则代表上天的影响。这些象征可能解释为什么朱伟的作品经常被认为具有尖锐的政治性,是讽刺性的社会批评。画中人物所表现出的沮丧、焦虑、痛苦或无助可能正是他对当局的一种回应。


一套朱红色的丝网印刷的图章也支持这后一种诠释。其中之一就简单的四个字 - 朱伟书画,是画家对原作的确认。其他还有与时俱进和十有八九,都明确显示了画家个人对其创作的密切关联和批评。这是朱伟的谦恭,他承认他的作品还有可提高的余地。


新二刻拍案惊奇之二描绘的是几只手举起来致敬。而致敬的方向则是背景中由黄黑色组成的卷形云图案。致敬的手势实际上代表的是英语手语中的“我爱你”。它用伸出的拇指、食指和小指,同时蜷起中指和无名指包含了字母I(我)、Llove爱)、和Yyou你)(可别跟布什最喜欢用的两指做牛角状代表魔鬼的手势弄混了)。那这手势到底是对谁打的呢?它没有向观众表明,这一事实在另一幅作品中更突出,那幅作品描绘的是两个打着这种手势的人的后脑勺和肩膀。唯一的结论是手势是朝云打的, 而云要么代表好运和幸福(一种正面的个人的诠释),要么代表政权(一种有点令人困惑的政治的诠释)。