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鸿韦:自塑像——温·海格比

2014-06-06 10:22:41 来源: 艺术家提供 作者:温·海格比(Wayne Higby)
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摘要:“在我们这样一个善于自我剖析的时代,自塑像已成为典型的视觉流派……… 自塑像的一个奇妙之处在于它能够在观众心里唤起或多或少的不安感。[在面对一副自画像或自塑雕像时,我们会有各种疑虑:]这个艺术家是带着一种描绘或判断我们的眼神注视着我们吗?还是以一…

  “在我们这样一个善于自我剖析的时代,自塑像已成为典型的视觉流派………

  自塑像的一个奇妙之处在于它能够在观众心里唤起或多或少的不安感。[在面对一副自画像或自塑雕像时,我们会有各种疑虑:]这个艺术家是带着一种描绘或判断我们的眼神注视着我们吗?还是以一种自我描绘或自我判断的目光在注视着他镜中的自己呢?亦或是这个艺术家为某种特殊的原因来创造一个人物角色?或者,他们曾深深地研究过关于回忆、神话、幻想的故事,然后创造一个符合这些情节意义的人物”?James Hall,自画像:文化史。(1)

  鸿韦是一个有着深刻中国文化认同感并且通过个人视角来革新这种文化的新一代艺术家。他在陶艺领域取得了意义非凡的成就。鸿韦在2005年毕业于中央美术学院雕塑系,获得学士学位。同年,他被纽约阿尔佛雷德大学研究生院陶艺系录取。阿尔佛雷德大学艺术设计学院由于它的卓越的陶艺专业而在国际中享有盛誉。鸿韦接受这里的教育意味着在他的艺术生涯以及整个人生中迈出了意义深远的一步。对于鸿韦来说,在美国的学习生活让他更深刻地审视自己的人生。鸿韦对中美文化的差异有着独特的理解和对比分析,这使他深刻地思考“我是谁”这样一个富有挑战性的问题。带着这样的思考,鸿韦开始用烧制陶做了一系列的自塑像。

  像所有艺术家一样,鸿韦的艺术生涯基本上从童年就开始了。他出生在唐山市的一个工人家庭中,离家不远的空旷的泥泞的街道成了鸿韦童年的无限乐趣。从小很顽皮的他在与同伴游戏玩耍的过程中就体现了他充沛的精力和富有创意的头脑,逐渐地,他将这种活力与创造力运用到严格的体育竞赛训练中。在课堂上,他在数学和绘画方面表现非常突出。他最终选择了雕塑并被中央美术学院录取。作为运动员,他接受了专业训练,这磨练了他超凡的毅力和专注力。也许正因如此,他能全身心地投入到雕塑和英语的刻苦学习中。他的意志力驱使他无止境地沉浸在创作雕塑的过程中,考虑到他对体育运动有自然的倾向,他对艺术地这种专注和热情也是必然的。陶瓷雕塑,它的创作中心在于动手能力和对陶土的理解和运用,[这尤其需要精力和创造力]。(2)

  创作陶瓷雕塑使艺术家与这种可塑性材料有亲密的肢体接触,这种接触激发艺术家去探究自我,这是艺术家与材料的互动。艺术家在陶土中留有自己的手印-艺术家身体的印记-是即刻呈现的。这是一种感觉层面和精神层面的对话,它能够立即让人感觉到自我的存在。在触碰陶土的那一瞬间,艺术家就开始投入到将自然内在的力量与自我深刻连接起来的过程。由此看来,鸿韦对自塑像的探究与他的作品的材料物质是息息相关的。鸿韦对自塑像的研究以及与之相关的艺术家作为本体的研究深深源于现代艺术理论的知识结构和艺术自主性的概念。

  自主性的概念是现代艺术社会史的一部分。在19世纪中晚期,在欧洲社会的结构系统由于工业革命的影响而发生深刻变革的时候,独立的个体的思想行为观念也开始在早期现代主义艺术家的群体中传播开来。各个领域的艺术家们开始注重他们自身的经验和情感。公共场所变成了为调查而设的公共讨论会空间。艺术家不再束缚于教堂或宫廷的赞助,而是在崛起的中产阶级中寻找新的观众。虽然,艺术家仍然依赖于消费者和收藏家的支持,但他们为独立于政治、神话和宗教束缚的赞助人提供艺术品,这为艺术家带来了一种自由。(3)

  自主性的观点已经深入人心。在欧洲和美国贯穿整个20世纪的中心现象就是艺术家被视为英雄和梦想家,他们在崛起并强化着他们的自主性。在21世纪,个人主义思想和艺术思想是艺术全球化的中心。艺术家的自传已然成为评论话语的重要依据。

  虽然,艺术家创作自塑像并不是现代史特有的现象,但它已成为通往备受崇尚的个人主义的方式之一。居斯塔夫·库尔贝在1845年创作的自画像《The Desperate Man》是艺术家表达对自我心理路程细微地、自主地探究的经典之作。文森特·梵高创作了大量的表现艺术家深入探索自我肖像的传奇作品。埃贡·席勒,爱德华·蒙克,彼埃尔·博纳尔和毕加索,这些知名的现代主义艺术家均创作了大量的自画像。在最近的年代,自画像艺术家佛里达·卡罗、安迪·沃霍尔,大卫·霍克尼和辛蒂·雪曼将种族、民族和性别的问题带到了自画像中,使艺术家对个人身份的探究变得更为强烈和紧张。

  美国,作为崇尚和培养个人主义的中心国家,深深地影响着全球的艺术和艺术家。美国文化和艺术的影响渗透整个世界,成为全球艺术创作的主流。但是,我们必须意识到,来自不同文化的艺术家为美国当代艺术带来了不可估量的的艺术品和多样的民族文化视角。在美国生活、工作、展示以及学习的艺术家们代表着不同民族丰富的文化,他们深深影响着美国的艺术。如今,随着来自世界各地的艺术家在美国短暂或长久的发展,艺术家对自我的探究有了多重文化视野的维度。

  中国的艺术史并不颂扬那些独立于传统之外的、独立自主的艺术家们。虽然,山水画和书法的创作一直是艺术家个人精神和心灵的写照,但它们与那些压抑原创性的、正统的道义和原则是有着密切联系的。尽管自塑像在中国的艺术史中并不是陌生的艺术类型,但直到近代,艺术家在自塑像中的主体性仍被压抑着。

  作为当代艺术和生活的写照,鸿韦通过陶瓷这种素材对自塑像的探究正如一座桥梁-连接着东西方的文化、以及连接悠久的传统与此时此刻的艺术文化。诚然,鸿韦在美国的学习让自塑像成为他艺术创造的中心,但是,他对陶艺的研究可追溯到具有千年之久的中国陶瓷史。China,这个词本身就有陶瓷之源的意思。研究中国的陶瓷艺术,必须能够同时深刻理解和欣赏它精湛的技术与璀璨的审美价值。

  鸿韦的作品也清晰地体现着中国绘画和书法艺术的传统。鸿韦赋予自塑像的创作过程以一种源于中国审美趣味的特殊的感觉,例如宋朝那些与诗词相映的文人画一般凝聚着艺术家的情感。在很大程度上,中国的文人画的主旨是艺术家的内心情感。(4)鸿韦的作品蕴涵了

  一种精神和情感,这种精神和情感并不呈现在肖像的表象中,而是存在于艺术创作的过程中。他的自塑像深深地体现了作为内容载体的陶瓷媒介的哲学意义。这种表现手法不讲求形体上的相似,而是追求精神上的呼应。自我即主体,但正如中国水墨画那样,主体也同时是流动和变化着的,这种变化存在于艺术家的手、身体与物质之间互动的艺术创作过程。这种体力劳作持续地贯穿在鸿韦艺术创作的始终,并且赋予他正在创作的自塑像以一种深沉的意义。

  鸿韦的大型雕塑《沉思的重量#6》体现了他高强度的体力劳作和严肃的自我思考。这件作品由35个手工制作的自塑像组成,尺寸为386x183x277厘米。这些不同大小的头像罗列成五个竖直的塔形圆柱。这件作品暗含的多层次的意义反映了鸿韦与中华民族文化的深刻的联系和他敏感、自省的天性。它使人联想到个体融入集体的概念。

  《沉思的重量#6》的结构安排让人回忆起布朗库西为纪念的作品《无穷柱》,这个作品是布朗库西为第一次世界大战期间罗马尼亚的英雄而创作的tripart纪念碑的一部分。从鸿韦的作品中能看到现代艺术史的痕迹,能读出艺术家对雕塑这种艺术形式的深刻的、有条理性的见解。这种层层叠加的形式极富想像力,它似乎在暗示着一种无限扩张的人口数量,而个人只是其中的一个个体。然而,这一独特的个体诗意地、精神地诠释和反映着整体。在这组自塑像中,双眼是闭合的,好似在沉思一般。这种静穆、沉思的气息贯穿这组作品,混乱中深藏着秩序。层层累积的结构似乎暗含着一种能解放也能束缚个体生活的社会系统。这件作品所呈现的唯美的姿态类似于象征着佛教的中国传统的宝塔结构,但也同时具有与中国文化历史相联系的普世的、现世的符号。

  正如上文提到的,鸿韦对素材的运用在于他个体与材料的接触。但他对材料的掌控也集中在作为材料和场所的陶土。通过陶土,鸿韦将与土地作为人类家园相关的比喻与西方基督教神话-人类物质身体的起源-联系在一起。这件作品的的束状塔型的结构进一步被排列为水平的装置,恰如风景一般。我们从他的作品中可以看到承载人类经历的三个元素-人像、建筑和风景。此外,我们从鸿韦的雕塑中目睹了一种转变的过程-湿润粘稠的陶土经过火炼、烧制而成为坚石的转变。这种与自塑像本身相呼应的的蜕变暗示着个体生命的升华-个体在为解决生命中的各种困惑而做出的内心和与外部的挣扎后,获得了启蒙和超越。陶瓷艺术象征着挣扎以及挣扎之后的自我更新,烧制的实验记录了陶瓷艺术这一真实的特性。雕塑传达了有关精神永恒不朽的人类的集体意识。通过将陶瓷与雕塑完美的结合,鸿韦的艺术得到了普世的认可和回应。

  《沉思的重量#6》显然是鸿韦的主要作品。虽然《沉默的力量》略逊一筹,但意义深远。他那安静的、内省的状态尤其引人入胜。他有一种无以名状的重量感和凝聚力,但一只手托着略微倾斜的头和那双微闭的双眼捕捉到了无法触及的思想和精神。鸿韦对材料的娴熟运用给予作品一种生命的活力。他似乎在轻微地呼吸着。在陶瓷表面的釉以及开裂的纹理,暗示着艺术家在艺术创作过程中所经历的磨练、紧张、矛盾以及压力。这件作品跨越物质与地域,将此时此刻与历史被压缩在一起。《沉默的力量》似乎是悬于立体空间的一幅绘画作品那般有流动感和亲近感。这让人想起了19世纪晚期意大利雕塑家梅德托o罗索(Medardo Rosso)用蜡和石膏创作的介于绘画与雕塑之间的作品。从这幅作品中,也能看到奥古斯特罗丹的痕迹。鸿韦的作品兼具19世纪晚期的经典艺术与20世纪早期艺术的特点,这无疑说明了他所接受的广博的教育。在中央美术学院中,他深受西方传统学院派人物画像和雕塑的影响。但是,不同于传统的人物雕塑,鸿韦自塑像的独特、精美之处在于它是从内部形成的。也就是说,他的雕塑作品是空心的并且围绕内部体积来向外扩展空间。自塑像所体现的艺术家的自主性似乎是从内部的某个地方确立的。这揭示了一种神秘的质地,它挑战了或者将要挑战雕塑材料的不透光程度和重量的真实情况。

  鸿韦在以陶瓷雕塑为中心的艺术生涯的起点。他有着高超的技艺、有对陶艺传统和人物雕塑的惊人的专注力,有着对人性的脆弱的敏感,对脆弱背后的诗意有着独特的悟性。他对艺术和人生的深刻的理解和领悟让他的作品处于历史的经典杰作中,也让他站在了中国当代陶艺的前沿。目前中国的陶瓷作品充斥着一种自我陶醉式的、追求繁琐细节的风气,与此不同,鸿韦的作品表现了一种严肃思考的深度和对宏大目标坚定不移的气魄。虽然,自塑像可以被理解为艺术家自恋的一种形式,但是鸿韦对自我有着强烈的、深刻的解读能力,他丝毫没有渴望别人的注视,也不追求肤浅的、流于表面的东西。

  在中国,21世纪对艺术来说是充满活力的、无规则限制的时代:这为艺术家的创作提供了一个理想的环境。但在这样的时代中,人们几乎无法对艺术有清晰的辨别力。真正有价值的艺术品需要承载着一种文化批判。而大部分的作品通常很肤浅,浮夸奇妙的作品似乎很适合西方和国际的消费者的口味。但有些作品令人倍感清爽,它们体现了艺术家渊博的知识和对艺术素材的深刻的理解和领悟,也体现艺术家拒绝陈腐思想的艺术直觉。

  鸿韦的作品强烈地将新个人主义的观点囊括其中。他的自塑像向我们揭示了与古老中国背道而驰的思想:中国经典的传统绘画和书法艺术以及西方学院派的现代主义。陶艺扮演着历史和传统的角色,同时还是实体和景观,赋予某一处所以个性化的外延——该处所在人类和大地的广袤远景中持之以恒地存在。站在鸿韦的作品面前,我们会有一种谦逊感,我们深刻地感觉到他远离大众趋势、无所畏惧的坚持他个人主义的执着。

2014年5月于阿尔弗雷德

温·海格比(Wayne Higby)

美国阿尔弗雷德陶瓷艺术博物馆馆长

联合国教科文组织国际陶艺家协会常务副主席

美国罗伯特特纳陶艺基金会主席

  参考目录:

  (1)  James Hall, The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History, 2014, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London

  (2)  Conversations with Hongwei Li.

  (3)  The Social History of Art: Models and Concepts, Art Since 1900, Hal foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Thames and Hudson, New York, NY, 2004

  (4)  James Cahill, Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting, 1997, Yale  University Press, New Haven CT.

Hong Wei : Self-Portrait——Wayne Higby

   " The self-portrait has become the defining visual genre of our confessional age………

  One of the wonders of self-portraits is their capacity to induce levels of uncertainty in the viewer. Is the artist looking at us with a view to portraying or judging us? Is the artist looking at a mirror, with the view to portraying or judging themselves? Is the artist creating a persona to serve specific ends? Or have they delved into the book of memory, myth, imagination to create a work personal in its meaning"?  James Hall, The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History. (1)

  Hong Wei is among the new generation of artists who have taken a deeply rooted, Chinese national identity and revolutionized it via individual perspectives. His achievement in ceramic art is especially significant. Hong Wei graduated in 2005 from the highly regarded Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, with a BFA in sculpture. That same year he was accepted into the Master of Fine Arts program in Ceramic Art at Alfred University, Alfred, New York. Alfred University's School of Art and Design is renown internationally for its program in ceramic art.  Hong Wei's acceptance into the program marked a significant step in his development as an artist and a significant step in the arc of his life. For Hongwei, studying in America brought his personal life story into deep scrutiny. The cultural diversity between China and America offered a comparative analysis that focused the challenging question: Who am I? Hong Wei began a series of self-portraits in fired ceramic.

  The story of Hong Wei's art begins as it does for all artists - in the essentials of childhood. He grew up in Tangshan in a working class family and spent his boyhood in the rough and tumble dirt streets near his home. His tremendous energy and creative mind was channeled away from mischief by the rigorous activity of completive sports. In the classroom he excelled in math and drawing. He chose drawing and was accepted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Perhaps it was the discipline he learned as an athlete that influenced his commitment to an unrelenting focus on making sculpture and learning English. Certainly, given his natural inclination toward athletic activity it is not surprising that he would choose as an artist to immerse himself in the processes of making sculpture: in particular ceramic sculpture in which the use of the hand and the clay lies at the center of the creative experience. (2)

  The intimacy of touch and the body's interaction with the plastic, malleable materials of ceramics would seem to lend themselves to the investigation of the self. As one engages the clay an imprint of the hand - the bodily imprint of the artist - is instantly revealed. The dialogue is sensual and it is spiritual in the reveal of the sense of - I am. The engagement with the intrinsic forces of nature and the self are profoundly exercised in the very moment one touches the clay. Hong Wei's exploration of the self-portrait finds a powerful rational in the material matters of his work. His exploration of the self-portrait and its concentration on the individual artist as subject is also rooted in the intellectual framework of modernist art theory and the idea of autonomy.

  The idea of autonomy is part of the modernist mythology regarding the social history of art. As European society's, structural systems began to change during the mid-to-late 19th century, due to the important influence of the industrial revolution, an independence of individual thought and practice began to assert itself conceptually among the artist of early modernism. Artists in all media began to focus on their own experiences and emotions. The common place became a forum for investigation. No longer tied to the patronage of the church or court, artists found a new audience in the rise of a middle class. Although still dependent on the support of the consumer- collector, a sense of freedom from service to a specific patronage liberated art from political, mythical and religious constraint. (3)

  This idea of autonomy has had far reaching impact. Throughout the full length of the 20th Century in Europe and America the central phenomena has been the rise and strengthening of the individual artist as hero and visionary. Central to the globalization of art in the 21st century is the fixed idea of individualism and art. The autobiography of the artist has become an important backdrop to critical discourse.

  Although the artist practice of self-portraiture is certainly not unique to the modern era, it has been one avenue of individualism that is of special interest. Gustave Courbet's self-portrait, The Desperate Man, painted in 1845 is a magnificent example of an artist's intimate, personal investigation of physiological pathways. Vincent Van Gogh's self-portraits are legendary examples of an artist's search for the particular in the self-image. Egon Schiele, Edvard Munch, Pierre Bonnard and Picasso are especially notable modernists who produced numerous self-portraits.  More recently self-portraits of Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Cindy Sherman have brought intensity to investigations of individual identity - race, ethnicity and gender.

  America, as a nurturing home for the cult of individualism, has had a profound influence on art and artists globally. The influence of the United States has infiltrated much of what we view as the global mainstream of art making. It must be acknowledged, however, that artist from many cultures around the world have brought their considerable gifts and national perspectives to American contemporary art. American art has been greatly influenced by artists representing a vast array of nationalities living, working, exhibiting and studying in America. The investigation of self has been reflected in a multiplicity of cultural dimensions as artists from around the world have found their way to the US for short or extended periods of time.

  The celebration of the individual artist as a singular autonomous being working outside traditionally sanctioned artistic programs has not been part of Chinese art history. The practice of landscape painting and calligraphy has celebrated the individual energy or spirit of the artist, but tied to the specificity of canonized principles imbedded in a discipline of tempering originality. Although self-portraiture is not unknown in the history of Chinese art, the subject of the artist himself or herself in self-portraiture has been by in large avoided ---- until recently.

  Hong Wei's investigation of the self-portrait in ceramic material as a manifestation of contemporary art and life is a bridge between East and West as well as a bridge between tradition and the urgency of the present moment.  His study in America certainly brought the self-portrait to the center of his practice, but his investigations in ceramic art reach back into the thousand year old history of Chinese ceramics. For China is, in fact, the taproot of ceramic art. Chinese ceramic art must be studied and appreciated both for its technical story and the brilliance of its aesthetic achievement.

  The traditions of Chinese painting and calligraphy are also clearly evidenced in Hong Wei's work. He brings to the individualists program of the self-portrait a sensitivity to Chinese aesthetics exemplified, for example, by literati painting of the Song Dynasty, which was aligned with poetry in a focus on the emotional state of the artist.  The subject of Chinese scholar painting was, in large part, the artist's inner feelings. (4) Hong Wei refers in his work to a mindscape of ideas and feelings reveled not so much in rendering of image, but in an engagement of process.  His self-portrait image is deeply connected to the phenomology of the ceramic medium as a carrier of the content in the work. This approach rejects form-likeness in favor of sprit-resonance. The self is the subject, but similar to Chinese ink painting the subject is also the flow and dynamic interaction of the hand-body-material interface in the moment of creation. This aspect of body labor is continually in evidence in Hong Wei's work and gives profound meaning to the portrait of the self with which he is engaged.

  Hong Wei's large-scale sculpture, Weight of Meditation #6, is a manifestation of extensive body labor and self-reflective engagement. This piece consists of 35 hand made self-portrait heads of various sizes stacked in a series of 5 columns or towers and measures 386 x 183 x 257 centimeters. The layered meaning encoded in this work is reflective of Hong Wei's deep connection to his Chinese ethnicity and his sensitive introspective nature. One can easily speculate that the numerous heads refer to the density of the human population of China centered in cities such as Tangshan where Hongwei grew up. The submersion of the one into to the many is apparent and resonates.

  The compositional arrangement of Weight of Meditation #6 is reminiscent of Brancusi's Column of the Infinite, which is part of his tri part monument to the Rumanian heroes of the 1st World War. This reference is a reading of modernist art history as well as an insightful formal, sculptural device that allows the sculpture to imaginatively multiply in scale as it refers to an infinite human population in which the individual is but one singular entity - an entity that, nevertheless, has special meaning as a singular poetic, spiritual reflection of the whole. The faces of the individual heads are rendered with eyes closed as if in some introspective meditation. This condition engenders a quiet reflectiveness to the entire work which otherwise speaks of a systematic ordering of chaos. Hong Wei's structure of stacking seems to allude to the regimentation of society, which has the potential to empower and restrain the life of the individual. In a beautiful stylistic gesture Hong Wei connects his towers with the traditional architecture of the Chinese pagoda, which has its origins in Buddhism, but has become a universal, secular symbol associated with Chinese cultural history.

  Hong Wei's manipulations of material speak of his individual body and touch as mentioned, but also focus on earth as material and place. Hong Wei incorporates via his use of clay the metaphors associated with the Earth as the essential home of human kind and in Western, Christian mythology the origin of the very, physical body of man. Hong Wei's compositional arrangement of columns or towers is further arranged in a horizontal installation clearly suggesting landscape. We see in his sculpture  - figure, architecture and landscape - the trinity that houses the fundamentals of human experience. In addition, we are witnessing in Hong Wei's sculpture the metaphor of transformation as the wet earth or clay is transformed by fire into stone. This metamorphosis in concert with the self-portrait alludes to the internal and external struggle of the individual to resolve the questions of life and thereby gain enlightenment or transcendence. Trial by fire is a real aspect of ceramic art that suggests struggle, which leads to renewed purpose. The sculpture becomes a transmitter of the collective human consciousness regarding the immortality of the spirit. Hong Wei's autobiography achieves universal resonance.

  Weight of Meditation #6 is clearly a major sculpture. Power of Silence, although a far less dramatic piece, is nevertheless a very significant one. Its palpable state of quiet introspection is especially compelling. There is weight, mass, gravity clearly engaged; yet it is the tilt of the head with chin resting in the hand, eyes slightly closed, that captures an intangible moment of thought. The manipulations of material give to the work a sense of living energy. The work seems to breath gently. Fishers in its ceramic surface as well as the crazed network of its glaze suggest trials and tensions creating an overall rendering that speaks of the forces of time and stress. Present moment and history are encapsulated physically and graphically. Power of Silence has the fluidity and intimacy of a drawing suspended in volumetric space. One is reminded of the work of the late 19th century Italian sculptor of Medardo Rosso whose work in wax and plaster bridge the space between painting and sculpture. One can find hints of Auguste Rodin here as well. In particular, with regard to the figurative fragment as sculpture replete with the residue of the making. Hongwei Li's connections to the classics of late 19th and early 20th century art are perhaps no surprise given his educational background.  At the Central Academy of Fine Arts he was exposed to a tradition of academic figure drawing and modeling largely imported from the West. However, unlike traditional figure modeling, a unique and fascinating aspect of Hong Wei's self-portrait is the fact that it is formed largely from the inside. In other words, the sculpture is hollow and expands into space around an interior volume. This gives the effect of the form asserting itself into space from somewhere inside the image. This offers up an uncanny quality of becoming or coming into being that challenges the sculpture's factual condition of material opacity and weight.

  Hong Wei is on the threshold of a major career as a ceramic sculptor. His masterful skills as well as his attentiveness to the traditions of ceramics and figurative sculpture combined with his sensitivity to the poetry of human vulnerability situate his work both in the canon of historical masterworks and at the forefront of contemporary Chinese ceramic art. His work revels a depth of seriousness and commitment to goals other than the trivial exercise of self-indulgence so ubiquitous in surveys of current ceramic work in China. Although the self-portrait could be considered to be a form of artistic narcissism, Hongwei manages to deliver a powerful and poignant reading of the self far beyond the superficial desire for attention.   

  The early 21st century is a dynamic, unruly time for art in China: wonderful for creativity, but almost impossible to sort out. Art that is taken seriously seems to require an element of cultural critique imbedded in it, most often a superficial, edgy punch line that seems geared to sympathies of Western-international consumption. Refreshingly, some work stands out simply based on knowledgeable, powerful assertions of material savvy and artistic intuition that avoids cliché.

  Hong Wei's work is a strong encapsulation of the concept of a new individualism. He offers us his self-portrait expanded or expanding against the backdrop of old China: the classics of traditional painting and calligraphy as well as the traditions of Western academic modernism. Ceramics plays the role of history and tradition, but also of body and landscape giving the individualism encapsulated a place-the place it has always had in the larger perspective of the human being and earth. The work is respectful, sensitively considered, deeply felt and audaciously centered in the assured commitment of a personal vision impervious to commonplace trends.

 Wayne Higby

Robert C. Turner Chair of Ceramic Art

 Vice President of IAC

May 2014

  (1) James Hall, The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History, 2014, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London.

  (2) Conversations with Hongwei Li.

  (3) The Social History of Art: Models and Concepts, Art Since 1900, Hal foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Thames and Hudson, New York, NY, 2004

   (4) James Cahill, Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting, 1997, Yale University Press, New Haven CT.

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