Modern & Contemporary Chinese Art
Wei Dong (Chinese, b. 1968)
Kite Flying, 1995
ink and color on paper
Gift of Red Rock Studio, Hong Kong, A Williams Alumnus
Photo by Jim Gipe-Pivot Media and Stephen Petegorsky
Fusion abounds in the art of Wei Dong (b. 1968, Chifeng). He draws from a wide variety of sources, including Ming and Qing landscape painting, socialist realism (the official style of political propaganda under Chairman Mao Zedong), Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Socialist realism was a major component of his high school art program, even after the death of Mao, but Wei’s art often subverts the Mao-era agenda as seen here with a female wearing the blue government tunic shown in a potentially compromising situation. He is passionate about ink painting, which he sees as a critical element of Chinese identity. “Young people in China,” he says, “no one knows how to use ink on paper. It’s terrible. But I think it’s very important. You are Chinese. You must know this.” In this work, hyper-realistic figures are almost jarring against the traditional Chinese landscape on the folding screen. Wei reconciles the figures and landscape as representations of reality and illusion, respectively. The landscape is not only a source of national pride that is returning to the forefront of Chinese art after the effects of the Cultural Revolution; it is also the serene illusion to which he escapes while painting—his own personal desire.