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Insider's Guide to Beijing 2004-05《知情者的北京指南2004-05》

Shantou University Press 汕头大学出版社


Art Speak

Cynical Realism (Pipan Xianshi Zhuyi)

Developed in 1989, this style of art is characterised by repeated figures of bald-headed men, often smiling or laughing maniacally, perhaps in an ironic statement about the forced conformity Zhu Wei, Yue Minjun and Fang Liiun pioneered this style.

Sculpture (diaosu)

Cynical Realism like Zhu Wei and Yue Minjun have dabbled in sculpture, bringing their paintings into three dimensions. Ai Weiwei’s conceptual pieces are often Dada-esque. Sui Jianguo is another prominent sculptor - his most recent signature piece was a giant toy dinosaur with the words ‘Made in china’ appearing prominently on its chest.

The Road Home

llusion of the pictures:

P176: 'Cynical Realist' Zhu Wei

P177: ‘Festival’ by Zhu Wei

P178: ‘China Diary’ by Zhu Wei

Zhu Wei searches for an audience amongst his compatriots

Who: Zhu Wei

Occupation: Painter, sculptor, woodcutter

Year of Birth: 1966

Zhu Wei is the embodiment of contemporary China. Born in Beijing during the 'cultural revolution,' he joined the PLA at the age of 16 where he learned to paint propaganda posters in the military art school (he left the military in 1989). He is a rock and roll enthusiast and a personal friend of Cui Jian. Though he has been living in the same four-story condo in Shunyi for three years now, he still longs for the days when he painted on the floor of his tiny room in Wudaokou. His habits haven’t changed. He still lives like a starving artist - his condo is minimally furnished and his carpets are stained with ink. He sleeps on a mattress thrown on the floor of his studio, while his girlfriend sleeps upstairs.

IBM recently bought some of his sculptures, and they are currently on display below an Andy Warhol print in the lobby of the IBM building in Manhattan. In late 2004, Sotheby's will be auctioning his famous painting of Deng Xiaoping, "China, China," during an auction of international contemporary art. The only other Chinese artist to be auctioned will be Xu Bing. Despite his fame abroad, Zhu is virtually unknown at home.

that's: There are several other artists such as Fang Lijun, who are considered Cynical Realists, using imagery that's similar to yours. Did you draw from them to develop your style?

Zhu: No, they learned from me. They showed up in the media before I did, but I've been doing this since '92. But it's not important who did what first. It's who does it the best. If you're talking about ink paintings, I'm the best. I won't say anything about oil paintings.

that's: So why do you use the images that you use, such as people in communist uniforms and SARS masks?

Zhu: I work mostly in traditional gongbi (meticulous brush painting), a specifically Chinese medium. My goal is to keep it vibrant and relevant. I use certain images to tie my paintings to modem times. I use a traditional medium to deal with contemporary themes.

that's: Since you have only been exhibited abroad, have you found yourself catering more to foreign audiences?

Zhu: No. I don't really think that much about whether my audience is foreign or domestic when I paint. In fact, I mainly think about the time in my life when I hung out with all the punks in Wudaokou. I prefer to hang out with musicians. I actually don’t know that many artists personally, I was listening to a lot of punk and heavy metal at that time. I use a traditional medium, but when you're listening to that kind of music, there's no way you can paint traditional subjects [laughs].

that's: So is it important for you to succeed at home now that you've been so successful abroad?

Zhu: Absolutely. It's not about the money. If I don't get recognition in my home country, it will be as if I never succeeded at all. I hope to begin exhibiting more at home in 2004. Maybe I'll start with one or two pieces in a group show, and we'll see from there.

that's: Is Beijing a work of art?

Zhu: No. It's a place that produce art. I don’t think I would be able to produce art anywhere else. The Tyler Foundation has invited me to do a 3 month residency in Singapore. I know they want me to produce work that has something to do with Singapore. But I don't think it really matters if I do or not [laughs].

- - Gerald Mak






























- - Gerald Mak