The 13-work Zhu Wei survey currently showing at Art Seasons’ recently opened loft space is small but enlightening. Including prints, inks on paper and a China China series figure. The exhibition is the artist’s first Singapore painting solo since 2000. Prints are predominant, as are several polychrome 2004 editions familiar to those who saw Zhu’s STPI 2005 exhibition. This show also includes three powerfully expressive monochrome woodblock portraits. Produced in 2003, these rough yet sophisticated black-and-white images reveal an anger and angst not often seen so directly in Zhu’s work.
Quite different in mood and formal approach are the two more recent works: ‘Vernal Equinox’ and ‘No. 1 and No. 3’, of 2005 and 2006 respectively. Above all, it is Zhu’s inks that provide the most reliable clues to the artist’s current concerns and these two, marking a shift from earlier paintings in the show, hint at his changing view of China. Here are Chinese urbanites that, in contrast to Zhu’s determined-looking, shorn-haired officials of a decade ago, seem relaxed and a little gawky, their hair flying and toes pointing inward. Despite the goofy appearance, they are all individualised and quite distinct from the generic types of much Chinese political art. Their expressions are expectant and some, with their raised arms and closed eyes, go as far as recalling evangelical Christians in prayer. But though one might suspect Zhu of moving from one end of the political spectrum to the other - his critique of Chinese state bureaucracy now replaced by a satire of the Western version of establishment conformism - this would be missing the artist’s exclusive and profoundly empathetic interest in China. Human, and as far as one can get from cynical, these pictures are about the people of today’s China: not intimidated, not angry, but waiting for something which they cannot yet define or know. This compact show provides a quick but finely honed snapshot of a rapidly changing and often elusive China.
Time Out Singapore Link