Date：9.17– 10.31, 2021
Venue：166 ART SPACE (No. 166 Zhenning Road, 405 Lane Shanghai)
“Wei Jia and His Students” is the first exhibition exclusively dedicated to Wei Jia’s print works, featuring eight latest prints created since 2014. The exhibition will also showcase the works of five of Wei’s students from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute Printmaking Department. The works by the mentor and his proteges were often created together in the lithography studio and are manifestations of educational legacy.
Any investigations on Wei Jia’s paintings would be incomplete without discussions on the artist’s prints. In 1999, Wei Jia graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts Printmaking Department and dedicated his efforts to lithography. Lithography requires intensive effort and skill, and the genre sets the foundation for the artist’s career. In the same year, Wei Jai returned to the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute for a teaching position and continued with his exploration of lithography. Starting in 2001, Wei was awarded gold prizes at national prints competitions for three consecutive years for Language of Birds, Superman, and Amusing Ourselves. The works depict the earliest temperament of Chinese artists born in the 1970s, which adopted a cool, distanced stance when observing the world. Wei’s acute sensibility towards color was first embodied in his prints; he used pastel pink, purple, and grey-toned blue to create scenes that resembled fog and wind, while the unique texture of lithography conveyed serenity in the penetrating and reflective nature of light. Sometimes, Wei would tackle lithography through the strict context of tradition; other times, he would treat it as a completely different medium. In 2004, Wei challenged the size of his works by painting largescale, mounted works with acrylic. As for the transition stage, Wei’s paintings were impacted by unique compositions and thin-coated brushwork.
Ten years later, in 2014, Wei Jai took up lithography once again, this time returning from painting. The brushwork of After the Rain the Sun Breaking Through embodies characteristics that were unseen in his previous lithography works, conveying an effortless, Eastern expression. Lithography creates planes through points, which can now be completely replaced with lines. In other words, Wei discovered a creative trajectory that was similar to drawing in the logic of printmaking. Either using acrylic on canvas or lithography, Wei is able to manifest his beliefs in painting: capturing the deepest imageries through the simplest brushwork. Wei’s works are not entirely abstract, nor are they figurative; instead, they display new possibilities for modern Chinese painting. Some works showcase robust grandeur; for instance, Untitled, with blue-green and brown-black versions, feature a figure resembling Laocoön, which seems like a distant Fellini myth and the glamour of the Han and Tang dynasties. Some of Wei’s works portray composure, such as the swimmer resting by the water and ready to take off in Lasting as the High Mountains and Long Rivers. Presented in red and blue, the colors of the work catch the attention without being boisterous. The tones of these works can be seen as the style of middle-aged artists who were born in the late 70s and their comprehension of society or the color of China in the 21st century.
In 2016, Wei Jia and his students attended an exchange with Tokyo University of the Arts prints workshop, which gave birth to collaborative work Kasai, a painting of a young man. In 2018, Wei attended an exchange with the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in Belgium; his Untitled showcases bathers supporting each other on the shore, exuding a sense of balance and stability. On most occasions, Wei would create works with his students in the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute prints workshop. The works of five students are featured in this exhibition. Among them, Zhao Yijie, Pang Xingbing, and Guan Qingheng have completed their graduate studies. Zhao Yijie and Pang Xingbing remain in the school as teachers, while Guan Qingheng took up a teaching position at the Guizhou University of Commerce. Cao Gen and Su Yuming have completed their undergraduate studies; Cao continues to work with Wei, and Su is pursuing further education in printmaking at the Central Academy of Fine Arts graduate school. These students are diligent in perfecting their craft and are often seen hard at work, with their backs hunched in the studio. Each student has developed their own style: Zhao Yijie is known for his delicate renderings of the texture of lithography; Pang Xingbing’s works are embodiments of his pursuit of eternal value, showcasing nature that seems to discard all materialistic desires; the new, purple flame in Guan Qingheng’s mind seem to burn with everlasting rigor; Cao Gen’s works are portals to a world that exist between reality and ideal, while Su Yuming’s works are more realistic, highlighting his determination of surviving in the world.
“Wei Jia and His Students” is not a rowdy exhibition. Lithography is, at its nature, a creative medium known for its retrained and humble quality, which seems to contradict our current preference for fast and appealing visuals. However, lithography requires enormous strength, created through repeated rolling and rubbing heavy stones. Just like the stone that makes the printing plate, quality stones breathe and allow appreciation for extended time frames; Wei’s bond with lithography, his creative approach, and his mentality as an educator, also show similar traits. A 10-minute documentary capturing the entire production process of Lasting as the High Mountains and Long Rivers will be presented alongside the works of the exhibition. Over 20 years into his artistic career, Wei is presenting a 4,500-word essay, “Along the Way,” sharing his learning and experiences as both creative and educator with straightforward wording. At the end of the day, Wei Jia is a painter; and therefore, his writings do not attempt to interpret his works but are merely documentation and records of his creative journey.
Michael Ku, July 31, 2021
Organizer / 166 ART SPACE
Co-organizer / MICHAEL KU GALLERY