Wei Jia’s all-new 2022 solo exhibition “Strenuous Journey” opens to the public on July 10 and will be featuring a series of works that the artist created during the past two years. Before “Strenuous Journey,” a precursor of the exhibition called “Strenuous Journey I” will be on view from May 14, showcasing ten selected works that Wei Jia created between 2008 and 2018. The exhibition is curated according to the timeline of the artist’s career and displays the development and extension of Wei’s artistic style. The subject matter of the works ranges from the self in the early years to the depiction of life; these works are an ongoing journey.
Since 2003, Wei Jai has redirected his creative attention from lithography to easel painting. While breaking the dimensional boundaries of lithography, Wei also revisited the lithography-like qualities in his early paintings: contrasting compositions and strong narratives. The smooth, fluid images depict the connection between the self and the world seen from the artist’s perspective. The dynamic and compact depictions of the world are like scenes from a stage, expanding from a single focal point.
In 2008, Wei Jia was beckoned by the call of painterly expressions, which led him to incorporate livelier brushwork into two-dimensional compositions. This is Wei Jia’s first style change. Grow Old With White Hair VII and Illuminating the Endless Night VII mark the peak and end of the first stage and fully portray the youth’s lonesomeness and warmth, glamour and desolation, charm and seclusion. Works that followed, Flight Taboo III and the 2009 work In the Distant Fields and Smoky Woods III, take a step closer to literary expressions and illustrate the search for life and art. In Flight Taboo III, the light lies ahead, but hiding beneath the magnificent feather robe is a face filled with fear. Depicted in In the Distant Fields and Smoky Woods III is a scene of abandonment, the weathered tiger and boy at each other’s side until the end of time.
The 2012 work Drunk like an Inverted Empty Cup is the artist’s portrayal of himself, as well as a reflection of reality. The wine glass shimmers in the darkness, and the person is at the same time sharing a drink with someone else and drinking alone. The work shows an unprecedented quality that almost resembles classical oil paintings. This is his second style change. Although the artist’s attempt to add modern touches to classical styles displays a hint of clumsiness, Wei Jia’s persistence in perfecting the technique has allowed him to progress toward his next milestone.
The 2014 work St. Mount. Denis uses simplistic brushwork to transform the view of the back of a person running toward the goal into an internal belief. In the painting, the sun appears from behind the clouds, while the lush grass and trees are portrayed with relaxing strokes of the paintbrush. This is his third style change.
Moon and Intoxicated, both created in 2016, apply bright colors to complement the soft hues of human flesh. The body gestures mirror the internal states, but the sentiments are more understated and subtle. The 2017 work Untitled is a painting of a horse, a subject matter that often appears throughout Wei Jia’s over-one-decade career. The stillness suggests movement, while the black hair echoes the background, with the temperaments of the horse showing only through its eyes.
The 2018 work Hug removes the outlines of the people, merging the color and lines as one. The image is created with both abstract and figurative depictions, while the lowered faces and hand gestures speak to sentiments that do not need to be concealed.
The Chinese title for the exhibition refers to a troop made up of excellent talent. However, Wei Jia’s “Strenuous Journey” is an expedition, a path filled with stamina. For Wei Jai, painting is his epoch, and time continues to progress forward.