Articles

End of the Year — 2016 - 2017 Wei Jia's new works

Wei Jia’s End of the Year was the last painting he completed inhis old studio. Similar to his work entitled Lightin the Cloud, a work painted two years before, both pieces convey a sense of beingamidst nature. While there is a certain geniality and warmth in Light in the Cloud, End of the Year was paintedwith determined brushstrokes, giving it an assertive and powerful quality. WeiJia paints with a humanistic touch, often expressing tenderness and richsentiment. His new works are direct, powerful and exude a positivity. Aftermoving to his new studio, Wei Jia, onceacclimated to his new environment, beganto create more work. 

  

WeiJia is very fond of the verse, “Spring lurks at the edge of the horizon,”written by Tang Dynasty poet Li Shangyin; Wei's studio serves as his ownhorizon. From2006 to 2016, Wei Jia used an old tank warehouse as his studio, located in thehistorical section of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute campus. When he firststarted working in his studio, the campus was in the final stages relocating.Laughter and chatter of delighted students carried through the campus. Not farfrom the campus entrance were steps that lead downwards to the old tankwarehouse, a place of refuge and quiet. Here Wei Jia in his 30's produced alarge body of works, including SleeplessCity and The Scenery on Horseback. The works from this time periodreflected the joys he felt of being amidst the bustling world, whileobservingserenely from the sidelines. Once the campus had moved, the warehouse’satmosphere turned from tranquil to bleak. As if squeezed through a tight gate,Wei Jia’s creative path narrowed. Many artists have had to temper themselves byenduring a path of solitude in their pursuit of technical perfection andrefinement of their intrinsic artistic qualities.     

 

In 2003, Wei Jiaventured from lithography into painting; now, he is about to enter his 15thyear on this journey. The year of 2016 had particular significance for Wei Jia;it was the year that he moved from his converted warehouse-studio to the newcampus, where trees grew tall and lush, and all was lively and prosperous. Itwas also the year in which he accepted the position as director of the printingdepartment and emerged from his reclusive lifestyle opening his studio doors toregain contact with the outside world. His approach of exploring humanity as anobserver returned back to exploration through interaction and exchange.

 

In continuation of hisprofound spiritual philosophy, the artistic language of Wei Jia’s new worksexpress a radiating power in addition to his usual sensitive use of color andhis exquisite control of brushstrokes. Perhaps one could say that painting isan artist’s act of creating a layer of material on top of a surface or object. Inthe 21st century, we see tumultuous momentum bubbling at the horizon ofcivilization; this energy has contributed to the brighter colors seen in WeiJia’s art, as well as eager brushstrokes and vivacious paint splashes.

 

In the same way thata singer’s love for singing originates from instinct, a good painter mustalways love to paint. An artist’s sensitivity to imagery, his wish toinvestigate the history of art, and his exploration of future possibilities areperhaps all introspective steps an artist takes to further his love for art. Asfor that layer of material that the artist creates on top of asurface or object...it is, on one hand, an elevated pursuit of spirituality(that is to say the sublimation from flesh to spirit). On the other hand, thepursuit lies in the quality of this layer of material itself. This isregardless of how it is created. Whether it is created by painting, splashingor various other techniques — and no matter how thick or thin the layer becomes— its quality can always be refined through discipline and practice.

  

Wei Jia’s art centersaround humans — life, the human world, and human nature — and he approaches artwith an uninhibited attitude. This manner of thinking relies upon freedom. Ifthe restriction of set formats should limit his profound exploration ofhumanity, then he would do away with formality and choose humanity. If one listens to theirideological calling, then one’s path is clear. If the outside world ischanging too fast, then one should retreat into the mountains and observe intranquility; and if the cycle should move forward, then one should emerge fromobscurity, return to reality and be amongst people, all while preserving thefreedom of individual thinking.

 

In these previous twoyears, Wei Jia has created a number of larger-scale works that all have a lifeof their own; their individuality brings to mind the fortune poems mentioned inDream of the Red Chamber. Sudden Brilliance is — just as its title implies — asudden burst of brilliant prosperity. The World ofFiction is a quietand steady moment of immersion in art. Buriedin Cloud exudes WeiJia’s exquisite, almost royal quality. River is a stunning world of water andfog in which spirits flow gracefully. Perhaps YouthSurvivor of a Bygone Age waspainted for those who exist simultaneously in two times and wander between twospaces, or for those who leave their world just to step back into it again tofind that it is ever vibrant and blossoming. In End of the Year, abrilliant noon sun blazes down on a man who is holding a palette and paletteknife, as if pledging his allegiance to the art of painting. 

 

It is Wei Jia’sinstinctive need to be perceptive of humanity and to gain insight into the waysof the world. The title, Endof the Year, recalls Eileen Chang's description of time as “spinning fasterand faster until a quick, ebullient song turns into a mournful lamentation. Thebleak years of withering lie ahead, far away but foreseeable.” Perhaps Wei Jiais feeling the speed of time. He asks, “Can culture and civilization be createdin this phenomenon of rapid change? Things pop up and are replaced, but, thenagain, is life not also this way? All we can do is become ourselves in thisrapidly changing inner and outer world.”

 

Wei Jia, who willsoon turn 42, is for the most part a happy man. He is still holding his paletteand progressing at his own leisurely but vigilant pace. He is like thecompletely uninhibited man depicted in Intoxicated,who watches as flashes of light and bursts of color connect to the vast skythat is dotted with stars — a world of today.

 

A month ago, Wei Jiawas completing a new painting in his new studio that reflected the verse in hisfavorite poem, Horizon: “Oh crying orioles, if you have tears to shed, will younot shed them atop the tree and moisten the highest blossom.” From the centerof the painting's jet black background, bright pink flowers burst to life witha vitality that makes one fear for their end. This painting, resplendent andflourishing as it is, also brings to mind one of Pina Bausch’s famous dances,Nelken. Wei Jia wishes to convey the uncertain status of flowers, whose petalsare concrete but whose silhouette is abstract. He made repeated attempts andeventually deferring, “if I can’t paint it right, I’ll just have to cover thecanvas and try again.” The Wei Jia that we do not see is the one who laborsaway in his studio, painting the samestroke over and over again.