Between Eastern Philosophy and Contemporary Art Yiqing Li
Hongwei is one of most excellent Chinese young artist practicing today. After graduating from the Sculpture Department of Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing, he studied ceramic art at the School of Art and Design of Alfred University, New York. Currently, he divides his time between Beijing and New York. His sculpture and ceramic works were exhibited in New York City, Beijing, Huston, Philadelphia, Paris, and many other cities. In 2013, Hongwei was selected to be the youngest member of International Academy of Ceramics in Geneva, Switzerland. On the occasion of the 2014 New Year celebration, his sculpture Weight of Meditation was exhibited at the Carrousel International Fine Arts Exhibition in the Museum of Louvre. Meanwhile, Hongwei was awarded with Taylor Prize by French Fine Art Academy. Most recently, Hongwei was invited to join Taylor Foundation in France.
Mr. Michael King, the president of the French Fine Art Academy, said that Hongweis sculpture clearly reflects contemporaneity of Chinese sculpture. There is an Eastern philosophical mood running through Hongweis sculpture. Although he was educated and are still working in New York for months annually, Hongwei keeps a profound connection with Chinese culture. He does not simply create abstract art works that Western art world upholds. Rather, he endeavors to explore the sculpture materials and forms that can best convey Chinese thoughts in a contemporary way. His work employs the Western artistic methodologies and techniques yet retains and reflects the Eastern philosophies.
Weight of Meditation is an installation-based sculpture. Seven portraits are stacked vertically, with each getting smaller as going up. This multiplied triangular form has symbolic connection with Eastern ancient pagodas, creating a sense of weight and containment. Each portrait has a blurred Eastern face and meditative expression, evoking the Taoist concept of Dao Fa Zi Ran, which means that through meditation, man can internalize the nature. In order to fashion an ideal form that implies an advancing trend of meditation, Hongwei deliberately prolonged the horizontal lines of the shoulders and narrowed down the distance between the mouth and the nose of each portrait. His meticulous work on space and volume reveals the influence that the rigorous training of Eastern and Western academy has had on his art. ThroughWeight of Meditation, Hongwei pays homage to the philosophy of Chinese calligraphy, which emphasizes that thoughts go beyond tangible materials. This installation work ends at the smallest portrait, but its triangular and increasing trend create a sense of eternity, which alludes that the meditation and wisdom of human are far from the end.
During the past eight years, Hongwei experimented with various art materials, ranging from steel and wood to clay and glass. He eventually chose fired clay to makeWeight of Meditation. Through this work, he gave two conflicting qualities to clay: solid and soft. The matte and dry surface looks like pieces of cracked tree bark that experienced years of air seasoning. There is a strong sense of time involved in this condensed surface. While, the veins of varying thickness run cross the dry and hard surface, leaving long strips into the surface and creating a sense of looseness as well as softness. These two qualities blend in the faces of portraits harmoniously and naturally, which demonstrates the artists mastery and use of fired clay. Hongweis deep understanding of clay came from his repetitive practices of firing clay. The process of firing clay is highly uncertain and full of random elements. It is impossible for people to accurately predict the change of clays colors and textures as it is being fired. The artist can only subtly perceive the change based on his experience and immediate perception. It is in constantly changing process, Hongwei captured a full range of feelings about this material: warm, volatile, natural, hard, soft, etc. His art creating process seems to be an improvisational Jazz music, in which he cant know what is going to happen and what surprise awaits him. This reveals a crucial feature of contemporary art in which process and experiments are prioritized over the final products.Generally, clay is considered as a traditional art material, but Hongwei gave this old material with innovative forms and ideas, making it interpretable in a contemporary way.
Looking back through his works, Hongweis art has a dimension of self-inspect. Studying and working in New York provided him with a different experience that allowed him to deepen the exploration of the self. As Hongwei said, he felt lost in a different culture when he firstly came to New York. He needed to find a self-identity in a different culture. He created a large number of self-portraits in different forms, such as When Logic Is Sleeping, Between Conscious and Subconscious, Pray. All of these works are full of contemplative mood, leading us to see his interior world. By creating the work Ego? , Hongwei posited himself into the whole nature and universe to think who and where he is. For Hongwei, making portraits is a way of thinking about himself and the world.By Weight of Meditation, he expresses his attitude toward society: although we are living in a society where people regard working speed as a credo, artists have to keep a steady step. At least, art requires patience instead of short-cuts.
The Art Institute of Chicago Yiqing Li