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by Sunbow Art Gallery
Location: Sunbow Art Gallery
Artist(s): WEI Chu Yu
Date: 15 May - 30 Jun 2010

The Changing Visuals of Mao Zedong
By Cai Xiao

Not all the artists necessarily have complete say in the way their works might have been treated, which can be found to be the case in Wei Chuyu who had at one time served in the People’s Liberty Army (PLA), in which circumstance, the works created in the capacity as an army artist were that of under commission and therefore, in spite of his abundant output, not intended for the ready exposure on the art market.

Nor every artist can attempt a successful emulation of Picasso or Qi Baishi for their artistic excellence in quantity, individuality and skill. The same is certainly true for the artistic practice of Wei Chuyu, instead, he has opted to make an commitment of eighteen years’ time to one single subject which in the end has been concisely carried out in the composition of 16 oil paintings that make what is now the exhibition of Mao Series. In the space of eighteen years Wei Chuyu has been seeking to enact a shift in the visual image of Mao Zedong.

In Wei’s representation, Mao appears neither as a Supreme Socialist (Gao Daquan) rising out of the setting of Red Lights (Hong Guangliang), the visual characteristics dominant during the Cultural Revolution, nor the one of various alien looks presented by either pop art or pranks, but is objectively expressed as an ordinary person in his states of life stages –namely, a child, student, father, scholar, soldier, politician and simply a man.

The current art realm is seeing an increasing tension between the socialist mainstream art and avant-garde art. It is the two polar artistic approaches that has made Wei Chuyu’s attempt to effect a visual change an ever more truthful artistic expression which readily agrees with the appeal for art among the public and its value orientation as well.

The group of 16 oil paintings, in depiction of the Mao at his youth down to the one of age, records, in a manner of speaking, all the major shifting stages as evidenced in Mao’s own life as well as in China since the beginning of modern history. Mao series exhibited today can safely be taken as an artistic insight into the whole life of Mao Zedong and also as a serious reflection on the modern history of China. Therefore it makes sense to say that the series delivered in full artistry at the same time speak no less volume for its documentary significance. To put it in another way, endowed with a potentiality to be of documentation, the Mao Series by Wei Chuyu has come to appear particularly valuable.

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