Zhu Wei—Forerunner of Contemporary Ink Painting


On the afternoon of November 3, 2013, the solo exhibition of Zhu Wei officially opens, an occasion proposed by Today Art Museum. The exhibition pairs several years of Zhu Wei’s artistic creation with reviews sourced from various periodicals to sketch the development of his unique brushwork from period to period, forming a textual and academic frame that allude to each work’s artistic value. The exhibition is organized by TAM, the National Museum of Indonesia, MOCA Singapore, and the Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts, with sponsorship from Coca-Cola. World-renowned curator Zhu Zhu designed the show. 
   The exhibition follows Zhu Wei’s minimal style. The layout from start to finish has been conceived as one of Zhu Wei’s paintings in an attempt to meld art and exhibition space. The bright and colorful representative pieces from the 1990s (China China, Utopia, Beijing Story, Sweet Life, The Ink and Wash Research Lectures, and Hills Beyond a River) occupy the second floor of building one at TAM. All may witness the breadth and beauty of his work.
   Unlike the previous 200 exhibitions that have featured Zhu Wei, this exhibition includes several expository articles with the paintings in order to assist viewers in their understanding of his work from transition to transition, even to lead viewers to a greater understanding of contemporary Chinese ink painting as a whole. 
   Zhu Wei is the world’s most renowned contemporary Chinese ink painter and the art form’s most important explorer. 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. From 1993, his ink paintings began to show up in large international exhibitions and have since been featured in over 200 shows world-wide. There are twenty different publications of his paintings and retrospectives of his work, and thirty-nine museums have added him to their collections. 
   Zhu Wei is the first artist to adopt the meticulous (Gong-bi) ink painting language into the contemporary Chinese art scene. When many new Chinese artists were working on “political pop” and “ironic realist” oil paintings, Zhu was exploring the possibility to reflect contemporary Chinese political and social life with traditional meticulous ink and wash and had completed a representative series. His motifs differentiate his art from those traditional gongbi ink paintings; however, the techniques Zhu employs, such as coloring, outlining, blending and others, still remain the fundamental characteristics of the traditional form. The dramatic contrast between traditional art language and contemporary political social motifs makes his art irresistibly appealing.
   Amongst the vast outstanding group of contemporary Chinese artists, Zhu Wei is one of the very few who chooses to use traditional ink painting techniques to depict the social sceneries in modern day China. His paintings make up for an area that has often been overlooked in contemporary Chinese art, art that utilizes a local painting vernacular. His effort in research improves the chances of contemporary art to be relevant in China and makes it a substantial phenomenon. It allows the world to see paintings with authentic Eastern origins, to read its contemporary values, thoughts and above all, its power.