The Artist Who Was A Pioneer Of The 85 New Wave Movement In China – Wei Guangqing
Best known for a flat and symbolic composition that links traditional ethics and modern culture, Wei Guangqing is a contemporary Chinese painter and one of the main members of the “85 New Wave” art movement.
The 1980s in China represented a kind of explosive answer to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when China was not only cut off from the rest of the world but was also forced to disown and renounce its own culture. Suppression of such a powerful culture could only be met with an equal and opposite force. The result of this explosive reaction was the 85 New Wave movement. Many years later, when asked why he became a pioneer artist in the movement, Wei Guangqing replied, “Where there is oppression, there is resistance.”
Wei Guangqing first entered the public consciousness due to his performance art in 1988, in which he simulated the mental state of facing death in a dramatic way. Wei mentioned that he was inspired by both the experience of almost losing his life after being bitten by a snake, and the fact that one of his students committed suicide.
In the early 1990s, Wei Guangqing earned great fame with his Red Wall series. The visual symbol of Red Wall is taken from the traditional moral classics Zhu Zi’s Family Maxim and The Virtuous Words, and its themes are targeted at traditional morals. It was from that time that the artist started to focus on the social issues existing in Chinese society.
From his point of view, Chinese people have been advocating western culture and losing sight of their own culture since the 1980s. “The business of China is the business of the world”, stressed Wei, pointing out that only when China respects its own traditional culture, can the world pay attention to it.
Starting in the new century, Wei Guangqing has shown his concerns about modern society as well as the spiritual life of modern people. This can be traced from the colorful barcode-like background in Jinpingmei and Thirty-Six Stratagems series.
For the past 30 years, it seems that Wei Guangqing never stopped changing in making his art. He said that even though he graduated from the department of oil painting, the paintbrush wouldn’t define his career. “The most important thing for an artist to remember is to speak in a visual way, in a way that leads to discussion and challenge. Personally, I don’t think that art itself can solve social problems. Art is important because we find out and raise problems by the means of it”.