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The Business Times新加坡《商业时报》

October 21 2000 二零零零年十月二十一日刊


The Business Times

Saturday, October 21, 2000

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Underlying tones Suggestion of blind obedience in Zhu Wei's Sunflower series and his exploration of the fish in still life (inset)

PARVATHI NAYAR looks at Zhu Wei's works with their strong socio-political commentary

Like all good diarists, Zhu Wei records what he sees and has seen, though his language is pictures not words. These are not inward looking 'dear diary' entries centred around the recorder, more the recorder's response to events around him. Artist as diarist is the broad theme underlying Zhu Wei Diary, an on-going exhibition of the Beijing-born artist's works that offers both old and new -- a selection of some 18 new paintings; limited edition lithographs of two images derived from the 1998 Festival and the 1994 Comrade series; sculptural works.

Zhu Wei, born in 1966, belongs to the Post-89 generation of Cynical Realist artists. But while his work has strong socio-political commentary and pretest messages, his satire is gentler, more subtle. A feeling no doubt reinforced by his choice of medium, ink on paper, and skin in the ancient gongbi technique. Zhu Wei describes the subtlety of this technique as one where "the emphasis is on repetition of application. When painting an eyebrow for instance, an oil painter will apply just one stroke of black paint; but a gongbi painter will apply six or seven layers of ink to achieve the ideal black tone which is closer to nature."

Layering paint to create a background grid pattern is a Zhu Wei trademark to be found in the bulk of the artist's paintings; it is one of the ways he manipulates the translucent qualities of Chinese ink. He uses a variety of methods from textured boards with carvings on them, fabric, water of varying temperatures, water with chemicals dissolved in them to stretch the potential of the paper and create these Surface makings. And against this background he paints his subjects, figures rendered in a voluminous style and contained within freely drawn outlines.

If the figures are exaggerated, the scope is sometimes deliberately narrowed for effect as in the Sunflower series. We see the origins of the Sunflower idea in works where the artist paints in a window and the view beyond of people in a procession. In other paintings he then eliminate the windows altogether to focus on the people; they all stare in one direction with rapt expressions, like sunflowers turning to the sun. The artist is circumspect about his works and their meaning but the subversive subtext is quite legible; it is suggestive of a blind obedience.

There is also an exploration away from figures, playing with the theme of water, which the artist has apparently dabbled with since the mid-90s. The wave pattern of the Great Water series feels too schematic; however the explorations of fish in water as still-life are playful and expressive. In the rendering of the fish, Zhu Wei draws inspiration from artist Bada Shanren (1626-1705) of the Ming Dynasty, famous for his innovations and rebellion against the more traditional styles of painting in his time and idolised by many radical Chinese artists even today.

The current show also features a few sculptural works like the China Diary Stars, winch are a relatively new exploration in the artist's oeuvre. His China China series, which began in 1998, are cast in fibreglass but hand-painted in a way reminiscent of the Han terracotta warriors. Dressed in "Mao suits" and with featureless faces, the figures seem to offer up a message of obedience to a superior authority through their body language. They stand tilted forward, obsequiousness written into every line of the body -- the effect of conformity rather than individualism.

From both sculptural and two-dimensional work, it's obvious that Zhu Wei is an artist who draws freely from Chinese art of the past, as material he can reinterpret. This includes the seals ubiquitous to the medium, and a red seal inscribed with the words "plumblossoms.com" appears at the corner of one of the Sunflower paintings.

The artist explains it as a logical extension of the traditional idea of seals inspired by activities related to leisure, and the Net is certainly one of the major trends today. Is it playful or is there too commercial an edge to the seal? Or is it an acknowledgement of the artist's feeling for the gallery he is exhibiting with?

For Zhu Wei was discovered by Plum Blossom Gallery's Stephen McGuinness at the Guangzhou China art Expo in 1993. It was the beginning of a long, productive and still enduring artist-gallery relationship that has succeeded in launching the artist onto a regional and eventually more international stage.




作者 帕瓦希.纳亚 

潜台词 朱伟《向日葵》系列的盲从暗示和他对描绘静物鱼的探索(见插图) 










之所以这么推测是因为朱伟是万玉堂画廊的Stephen McGuinness1993年广州的一次中国艺术展中发掘的。从那时就开始了一段长长的、成果颇丰的艺术家-画廊的合作关系,不仅使艺术家获得了地区性的成功,最终还使艺术家登上了更为国际化的舞台。