When We Were Young–Imagination of Youth in Zhang Wei’s Work

By Yang Xiaoyan 楊小彥

Zhang Wei 張偉 has “grown up”.

Do I mean that Zhang Wei couldn’t grow up? Why does it matter whether he has grown up as he’s almost 50 year old?

“Zhang Wei has grown up”, means he has got a great success in conducting his mature works, and acquiring his unique thinking after decade’s hard efforts devoted to oil painting. His face is no longer young, gradually, wrinkled by ages. His expression is no longer rash, accompanied with sophisticated smile.

Zhang Wei’s personal exhibition is a significant mark to manifest his growth.

Why there exists a problem to Zhang’s growth? This is almost concerned with his eternal theme of youth in his oil painting. Since he stepped into the circle of oil painting, he has been sticking to the theme of youth, including not only behavior and expressions of teenagers, but also restlessness and unease of adolescence, delight and abandon of youth, hope and eager of bloom. In a word, youth is the perpetual theme with which Zhang Wei is concerned, and also, youth is the object to narrate, as well as the content to analyze.

At one time, Zhang Wei expressed his will through thematic creation. Later, he began to sketch his students, one or several students, on big canvas. Once finished, the works will never be modified so that he could keep the feeling and vividness on the spot.

Sketch, which is always finished in class, from drawing to color, is the art basic of realism in academy. So, the so-called academism, in some sense, is a style based on the sketch class. And that’s why the sketch class is easy to become a mode, which both hinders the development of taste, and fixes the road to creation. Thus, for those who grow up only obeying the teaching rules in academy, their works, which affect the whole features directly, are full of intense sense of pedant, and can’t help but become stiff or even fixed. What’s worse, this kind of sketch is far away from the nature of itself, as repetitive ways of facing the objects.

But compared with the mode above, which is called academism, Zhang Wei’s sketch is subversion. Its meanings are as follows: firstly, getting rid of the style of exercise-in-class. He manages it through maintaining the feeling of sketching on the spot. Secondly, emphasizing the sense of randomness or even incompleteness in composition. This makes the characters deviated, breaking the balance of composition. Thirdly, led by expressiveness, and highlighting the stylistic meaning of pictorial nature. This shows that the works are finished immediately.

In other words, Zhang Wei tries to revival the real sketch, making it real aesthetic with prompt implication. In his view, all of these match the thematic requests of youth better, bringing the youth more rational colors.

Therefore, he chooses models from students only, who are in the period of adolescence.

I guess, while sketching, he may often recall his own life experience, like the emotion and situation belonging to that growing period.

“Young we were schoolmates, at life’s full flowering; filled with student enthusiasm, boldly we cast all restraints aside. These words, said by Chairman Mao when he was young, are in accordance with Zhang Wei’s values. And also, they point out his exact pursuit. Teenage students, in Zhang Wei’s mind, is the essence of growth itself, and in it, youth is of course one of the meanings.

March 25th, 2010 in Chongqing, China

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