Zhu Wei is one of the leading figures in Chinese contemporary ink painting. Born in 1966 to parents who served in the military during the Cultural Revolution, his childhood memories begin with the military institute. He then went on to study art at the People's Liberation Army of Art, Beijing Film Academy, and China institute of Art. He is best known for The Story of Beijing and China, China series, documenting a rapidly changing social standard, as well as psychological weakness of human nature. Zhu has a humanistic approach on examining social events employing ubiquitous images of the social leaders in a board context.
The Story of Beijing (Lot 1494), painted in 1993, inspired by the liberation movement emerged in China during the 1980s. The soldiers in this painting were depicted with impassive wariness, which illustrates his acknowledgement of self-consciousness for free thoughts, reflecting the longing amongst Zhu's generation. Three Heads (Lot 1601), painted in 1996, describes men sinking in deep thoughts, and such struggling tension implies the artist's autobiographical reflection. China Jazz, No.9 (Lot 1601) from 1996 depicts what resembles a burger, hinting at the introduction of Western lifestyle that wore away the people in China. Three Heads reflects the inner battle within the artist's morality, whereas China Jazz, No. 9 champions the new popular culture; as such Zhu presents the viewer with the dilemma of complex social changes that has been disconcerting China.
Zhu had a deep affection for Chinese classical ink painting and evolved it into a unique modernised style of his own. In China Dairy (Lot 1495), and Untitled (Lot 1600), Zhu successfully developed a dialogue beyond time and space with a traditional Chinese ink painting. internalised with the profound understanding of classical ink painting's techniques and conceptions, Zhu treats it as an instrument to record the state of everyday affairs like a diary.
In the paintings, the figures dressed in a typical Mao suit evoke the ambiance of totalitarian nostalgia, yet there is a certain lightness and innocent spirit within. Amidst in China's social and political history, this painting reflects politically naive attitudes of the general public at the height of Communism regime.
China, China (Lot 1540), executed in 2008, is a pair of sculptures derived from Zhu's most notable painting series China, China. The simplicity of the work resembles the minimalistic approach of brushstroke in ink painting; the worn and fainted colours that render the figures echo the application of ink on paper, where the colours are gently saturated into the paper. Furthermore, the deliberately aged rendering of the sculptures, reminiscence of the Chinese antiquity statues found in Dunhuang, with which they bring us back to his fundamental interest in Chinese ink paintings and arts from the Tang and Song dynasty. In the work, the two life size figures suited in a typical Zhongshan suit - also commonly known as the Mao jacket, stand at attention with shoulders back and arms at their sides, heads raised. The figures are featured without eyes and mouth, leaning forward at a tilt yet firmly standing on the black platform beneath. Such structure and stance of the sculptures evoke a sense of satire on the totalitarian and compliance dogma of the Mao's era. In addition, the figures' rounded features and childlike forms shed light on how a child would see the world in its splendour. As a whole, while this work emphasises further Zhu's innocent outlook as a child during the Mao era, his witty creation is an amalgam of past and present which induces the viewer to look at the life and history that is unfolding in front of us with an open approach. Through his witty and sharp subject matters, Zhu's lively and rich visual language has opened a new door for the public to acquaint themselves with Chinese contemporary art.