The Beijing News, November 5 2013 Cultural News
Artist's solo exhibition held in Today Art Museum, Chinese contemporary art development condensed into 23 artworks --
Zhu Wei Uses Ink to Start "Cultural Renaissance"
Artist Zhu Wei's creation history is almost an epitome of the 30 years development of Chinese contemporary art. From the day before yesterday, you can review this period of history in Zhu Wei's 23 works shown in his solo exhibition which opened on November 3rd at Today Art Museum. For the first time, this exhibition applies the combination of literature and works for the interpretation of artistic creations over the years. In the view of curator Zhu Zhu, Zhu Wei is one of the few ink painting practitioners who can break through the wall between the traditional and contemporary means of expression. The exhibition will run until November 10th.
90% Works Were Borrowed from Overseas Collectors
The executive director of Today Art Museum Mr. Gao Peng told reporters that this exhibition has undergone three directors' terms of office from the initial plan, and after the effort of previous two directors, now the exhibition finally opens. Perhaps this kind of "difficult labor" offers yet another conformation of Zhu Wei's importance in the contemporary ink and wash circle.
Zhu Wei is the pioneer of contemporary ink painting, and he is also among the very first group of distinguished contemporary Chinese artists recognized by the international art audience in the nineties of the 20th century. Just graduated from Beijing Film Academy in 1993, Zhu Wei brought his painting The Story of Beijing No.3 to an art exhibition in Guangzhou, where he met the international gallery Plum Blossoms and signed a contract with them. From then on Zhu Wei became one of the earliest New China's artists whose faces widely recognized by overseas art collectors. This process is also reflected in the exhibition.
Reporter learned that 90% of the 23 works shown in this exhibition were borrowed from overseas collectors. Except for the three early paintings created in 1988 such as Portrait No.1 derivative from Bada’s landscape brush style, the embryo of Beijing Story which are still in China, the other 20 pieces of works on display were all borrowed from abroad including Monet family in France, Williams College Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Ullens, Mr. Uli Sigg, etc.
Exhibiting His Creation History In A Form of Literature
When many Chinese artists were working on “political pop” and “ironic realism” oil paintings under the influence of western modern art, Zhu was exploring the possibility to reflect contemporary Chinese political and social life with traditional meticulous ink and wash. In the view of art critic Li Xiaoshan, having a history is very important to an artist, and Zhu Wei is precisely an artist with history.
This exhibition, for the first time, presents Zhu Wei's creation history in a form of literature. Although only 23 paintings are exhibited, they have included Zhu Wei's representative works from the 1990s such as China China, Utopia, The Story of Beijing, Sweet Life and so on. Among them the Portrait No.1 derivative from Bada’s landscape brush style, the embryo of Beijing Story proves Zhu Wei's respect toward Bada Shanren, who has influenced Zhu Wei both in composition and sentiment. While the China China, a portrait of Deng Xiaoping which had been printed on American version of Time magazine, was borrowed from Jack and Susan in New York and appears in the exhibition this time.
In his new painting The Ink and Wash Research Lectures series which was initiated in 2005 and finished this year, Zhu Wei gave up his usual story-telling routine, starting a journey inward. By standing at some distance from the tradition, and looking back to the rules and elegant of traditional ink paintings, Zhu Wei found a new perspective.
"I'm Optimistic about Cultural Renaissance "
The Beijing News: You are very good at telling a story of China and of Beijing, but since 2005 you began entering into The Ink and Wash Research Lectures series, so what led to this?
Zhu Wei: My previous series focused on telling a story, because Chinese society was changing rapidly at that time. But eventually the stories should be told are told, and I started to walk into the inner world of people.
The Beijing News: I noticed the use of curtains as an element in the context of your creation. This element also appears in paintings by another contemporary meticulous painter Xu Lei.
Zhu Wei: I have painted a few curtain series, not much, which was derived from my Utopia series, and now I took it as an exploration. Unlike the earlier figurative paintings, this series express some elements of the characteristics of abstract thinking. I found they are more understandable to western audiences.
The Beijing News: You have another uniqueness which is your ink paintings had been recognized by international market very early. In the meantime, our contemporary art has been considered being manipulated by the overseas market right now.
Zhu Wei: The financial capital has led the contemporary art's nose for seven or eight years. Of course being led by the nose means there is some value lying in it. The market is a thing about commercial business, about financial industry, which is another world. It totally does not belong to the category of art.
The Beijing News: The contemporary ink and wash is extremely popular in China at present. What do you think about it?
Zhu Wei: The contemporary ink and wash is hot commercially in the market, in the price, but from academic point of view, it also proves a rising cultural renaissance, which develops the contemporary ink and wash into a hotspot. After 30 years of reform and opening-up, after we fully absorbed the western culture, now we look back and think our local culture is also nice.
Why do young men today like Guo Degang so much? These young men are growing up eating McDonald's and holding iphones. I think it because the authentic traditional culture in Guo Degang's cross talk.
Similarly, when we have seen enough the western contemporary art, now we suddenly want to see what our local contemporary art looks like. However good the oil painting is, it's still a foreign thing. Now we want to see whether there is any progress in our local thing. Here the ink and wash plays the role of local culture. In the past there was a negative attitude toward local culture, and now suddenly we feel the culture revival is coming. It is a genetic issue.
Now we are more confident about our local culture. I think there is hope in the cultural Renaissance, and I am optimistic about it.
Zhu Wei brings the traditional techniques into the authentic expression of contemporary themes. By doing so, he developed his unique symbols of modeling, his unique subject and composition, as well as a set of methods of coloring. Some meticulous brushwork painters today merely use their meticulous techniques to imitate the West, however, Zhu Wei follows the principles of flat and decorative in traditional meticulous brushwork, and expresses his feelings in real life. His creation has been filtered through his heart. I think Zhu Wei's painting cannot be ignored in the chapter of contemporary meticulous painting. By: Lu Hong (art critic)
Using the traditional ink and wash for contemporary expression, which sounds easy, but actually is extremely difficult. In the whole picture of contemporary Chinese ink painting creation, it is Zhu Wei who breaks through the barrier between the ancient and the present. By: Zhu Zhu (curator of the exhibition)