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International Herald Tribune 《国际先驱论坛报》

December 3-4 2005 二零零五年十二月三-四日刊



 

Zhu: Looking for 'something simple'

By Alexandra A. Seno International Herald Tribune

SATURDAY-SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3-4, 2005

HONG KONG 'When everyone is looking for a better life on the mainland, I am looking for something simple," says the Beijing artist Zhu Wei. His striking colored ink paintings still feature his trademark caricaturelike figures and an attitude that is somewhere between kitsch, pop and reverence for the classics. And yet there appears to be a new maturity in the works produced lately by the 39-year-old Zhu, one of China's most financially successful young artists.

"I paint to remind people of changes in China. But I was disappointed that my work didn't yield changes; what I only got was money," he declares with his wry sense of humor. Zhu isn't giving up. "People didn't get my message before, so I try something more simple, lower the political message to give people space to think."

The characters in military dress, the visual language of Communist Party propaganda and the patriotism in his distinctive artistic style still appear now and again - this time with pensive reflection. The people in his art look more serious; the compositions seem less gimmicky and much closer to traditional Chinese painting, with swaths of space devoid of figures and objects, giving the viewer room to reflect.

The artist's story is well known to followers of China's contemporary art scene. As a teenager, Zhu entered the military. His soldiering days ended when he was admitted to the People's Liberation Army Art College, finishing in 1989. After a few years of painting propaganda art for the motherland, his unit was demobilized in 1992.

He had just graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 1993, when he joined an art fair in Guangzhou Province as a 27-year-old struggling painter, selling his works for about $150 each. At the expo, Zhu's vibrant style caught the eye of the Asian art impresario Stephen McGuinness; almost overnight, Zhu became a superstar.

By 2004, the IBM building at 590 Madison Avenue in New York installed "China China," one of Zhu's bronze statues in its lobby alongside works by such established art names Andy Warhol and Alexander Calder. Zhu also became the first Chinese to be invited by the Singapore Tyler Print Institute as a visiting artist. Zhu's works are regularly sold at auctions by Christie's and Sotheby's and can be found in several prestigious personal, corporate and museum art collections around the world.

Having come so far, so fast, he says he intends to stay true to his art and get back to his roots. Despite successful forays into different mediums like printmaking and sculpture, in the immediate future he fully intends to focus on how it all started for him: painting, Chinese-style colored ink on paper.

"I am concerned about contemporary Chinese art. People just mimic what those outside of China are doing. It is dangerous," he says. As one of the pioneers in his generation and having made a name for himself early, he acknowledges that he is fortunate that he can choose what he would like to do with his energy. "Some artists are doing lots of things like restaurants and horse farms," Zhu remarks, "I am quite stable. Getting a better life is not my aim."

"I have always tried to use traditional Chinese elements because we have thousands of years of history," he says. "From the beginning, I have been trying to show how to modernize the past." He works in his own studio space in Beijing, often with the help of two assistants - one Japanese, the other Chinese.

Zhu sketches extensively, making miniatures before painting a large work, destroying everything but the final version. In the last two years, he has only produced 20 paintings, half of which he has just sent to McGuinness Plum Blossoms Gallery, which until Tuesday is showing them in the Hong Kong branch (there are galleries in Singapore and New York as well). These days, Zhu's "small" pieces, which are about 1 square meter, or 10 square feet, in size, tend to command prices above $20,000.

Zhu, who maintains the same buzz cut from his army days, likes to take classic stories and ideas and interpret them in his own way. Similar to the way that paintings used to bear the marks of the imminent personalities who had viewed them, he uses dozens of his own red seals to stamp his work not only with his name, but with his address and his Web sites.

His main Web site is almost exclusively in English, a curious detail that underscores how Zhu is a lot better known and a lot more appreciated among wealthy expatriates in Asia and art lovers in the West, rather than among those in his own country. "Most 'contemporary arts' don't happen locally," he says. True enough, the largest and most prominent collectors of new-style paintings, sculpture and photography from China tend not to be mainlanders.

He has two main theories about the West's current love affair with contemporary Chinese art. "Many artists are copying Western styles, and the Chinese art only costs half the price. Second, since China has developed so quickly, people are curious about Chinese art."

He says he has also gained a new Chinese following. With the mainland government clamping down on real estate speculation, Zhu says small groups of local investors have shifted their attention to art, going around the country purchasing the works of the more established Chinese names.

Zhu says: "I don't think about who is buying my work. Lots of foreigners know more about Chinese history. Some Chinese people cannot tell you the order of the imperial dynasties."

 

《国际先驱论坛报》2005123-4日刊

朱伟:追求“简单”

亚历山大 A. 塞诺  

“大陆的每个人都在追求更好的生活,我只是追求简单的东西,”北京艺术家朱伟说。他那让人惊奇的水墨画仍然充满了他标志性的如漫画般的人物形象,以及介于庸俗、波普和尊崇经典之间的那么一种调调儿。而在这位中国最能赚钱的年轻艺术家之一,39岁的朱伟最近的作品中,我们看到了不同以往的成熟感。 

“我画画儿是为了提醒人们中国的变化。但我也有点失望,因为我的作品变化不大;我得到的只有钱。”他勉强幽默地说道。然而朱伟没有放弃,“人们过去没能读懂我的东西,所以我现在要做更简单的东西,让人们有更多的思考空间。” 

以往常用的视觉用语在他独特的艺术风格中仍时时出现——这一次出现则带着沉思。他作品中的人看起来更严肃了;构图仿佛也没有那么精巧,画面的留白也跟传统中国画更接近了,给予观者反思的空间。 

对于那些对中国当代艺术的爱好者来说,这位艺术家的故事大家早已烂熟于胸。十几岁的时候,朱伟参了军。当他被解放军艺术学院录取以后,他的军旅生涯也就随之结束了,1989年,他从艺术学院毕业,在为祖国画了几年的宣传画之后,他终于在1992年复员。  

1993年他从北京电影学院毕业,当他参加广州一个艺术展的时候,他还是一个27岁的正在挣扎的艺术家,每幅作品不过150美元。在那次展览上,朱伟的鲜明风格吸引了亚洲艺术经纪人Stephen McGuinness的注意力;几乎在一夜之间,朱伟就成了超级巨星。 

2004年,位于纽约曼哈顿大街590号的IBM大厦安装了朱伟的一尊铜雕塑“中国中国”,紧挨着一些作品作者的名字都耳熟能详,如安迪.沃霍尔和亚历山大.考尔德。朱伟也是新加坡泰勒版画研究院邀请的第一个从中国大陆来的访问艺术家。不仅在Christie's和苏富比的拍卖会上常可以看到朱伟的作品,藏家中世界各地的一些有声望的收藏家、收藏机构和博物馆也屡见不鲜。  

尽管已经如此成功,如此快速的成功,朱伟说他还是要保持他对艺术的真实,回到他的根源。除了对一些不同媒介(包括版画和雕塑)的尝试取得成功外,在可预见的将来他还是想全心投入到他的起点——中国水墨设色纸本的绘画上。 

“我很关心中国当代艺术。现在都在模仿西方,做出的作品不中不西,这是很危险的。”他说。作为这一代人的先锋和一个早已出名的人,他知道他非常幸运,因为他可以以他的能力做他喜欢做的任何事情。“一些艺术家做一些开餐厅之类的事,”他评价道,“我很冷静。追求更好的生活不是我的目标。”  

“我总是尽力用中国传统的一些元素,因为我们有几千年的历史,”他说,“从一开始,我就在尽力把过去现代化。”他在北京工作室的作品,通常是在两位助手的帮助下完成的——一位日本人,一位中国人。

在完成一件大尺寸的作品之前,朱伟会画很多的草图,然后在完成最终的成品时毁掉所有的草稿。在过去的两年,他只画了20幅画,其中的一半都被送到McGuinness的万玉堂,在星期二之前于香港的万玉堂画廊展览(另外在新加坡和纽约也有画廊的分部)。这些天,朱伟的“小”作品,尺寸约为1平方米或者10平方英尺,售价高达20,000美元。 

还留着军队时的寸头的朱伟,喜欢把传统的故事用自己的方式来诠释。与过去的人喜欢在画上留下自己个人的记号一样,朱伟也有几十个自己的印章,在作品中作为标志,印章不仅包括有他的姓名,还有他的地址和网站。 

他的主要网站几乎都是英文的,这个有意思的细节表明了朱伟在亚洲更富裕的一些国家中和西方的艺术爱好者中的知名度和受欢迎程度比在他本国更高。“大部分当代艺术都不是在本土发生的。”他说。没错,中国的新风格绘画、雕塑和摄影作品的主要收藏家基本上都不是中国大陆人。  

对于西方现在对中国当代艺术的热爱,他有两个主要的解释,“一个是许多中国艺术家模仿西方的风格,但是其价格只有西方的一半。第二,中国的快速发展,因此带动人们对中国的艺术感兴趣。” 

他还说到,他现在也有了一些中国的爱好者。随着大陆政府对房地产投资的限制,一小部分本土的投资家于是就把注意力转向了艺术,在全国各地购买有名气的中国艺术家的作品。  

朱伟说:“我不去想谁会来买我的东西。很多外国人对中国的历史比中国人还了解。一些中国人甚至连中国各个朝代的顺序都说不出来。”

  

 International Herald Tribune Website