Wei Dong

Born during the harshest phase of the Cultural Revolution, Wei Dong is one of China's most avant-garde artists today and presents a refreshing alternative response to contemporary society. By juxtaposing classical figures of the West with traditional landscapes and tossing in seemingly arbitrary objects into his compositions, Wei Dong brings together conflicting images, traditions, and values into a single pictorial space. His particular vision thereby opens up contemporary Chinese art to fresh and unexpected potential.

15th century Chinese landscapes, Renaissance figures, and ordinary objects are the main motifs found in Wei Dong's work. Individually, these motifs reflect the artist's faithful observations of traditional style or everyday life; but in concert, they generate new and peculiar meanings. One might say that Wei Dong adopts a mocking tone in his scramble of subjects: traditional landscapes, nudes, handcuffs, bitter melon and arrows. According to the artist, however, they are merely reflections of contemporary society where sex, violence, and popular culture dominate traditional mores. For instance, Wei Dong doesn't hesitate to depict androgynous figures represented as P.L.A soldiers or archangels dancing above and amidst majestic Ming landscapes. This androgyny might suggest the common exploitation of the body, particularly sexual organs, inferring that in contemporary society, the identity of male and female no longer carries particular significance. At times, these figures become even more revealing and controversial because of their intense facial expressions, sado-masochistic gestures, or curious placement in the composition.

Beneath the seemingly derisive surface of the painting, Wei Dong reveals his profound and private world. Despite the apparent contradictions between things traditional and western, ancient and contemporary techniques and values, the world that Wei Dong creates always possesses some sort of coherence and harmony. The figures' intense expressions and enormous scale dominate the subtle landscapes as the artist tries to reverse the "normal" relationship between the two. Yet within this reverse order emerge a new set of rules and logic. The contrast of styles and colours focuses the attention on the figures that exist only in their relationship with the background, their attitudes, positions, and movement being entirely dependant on the configuration of the landscape. The artist claims the world he depicts is normal and natural - perhaps his body of work will force us to re-evaluate our view of the world.

At 27, Wei Dong has already mastered working in both Chinese and western traditions. His semi-nude figures, whilst partially concealed by Roman styled drapery, are rendered in space in fixed-point perspective. His palette of classical colours complements the figures' postures and chiaroscuro reminiscent of Renaissance painters of the 15th and 16th century. For the landscape, Wei uses assertive brushwork and layers of transparent washes to enhance the atmospheric perspective. Such techniques are clearly influenced by Wei Dong's admiration for the Wu School masters of the Ming Dynasty, especially Shen Zhou and Wen Zhenming.
Wei Dong was born in 1968 in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia. When Wei was two, the family moved to Wuhan where his father was stationed. In 1987, Wei Dong entered the Fine Arts department at Beijing Normal Institute (Renamed in 1993 Capital Normal University) and in 1991 graduated with a B.A. and the Best Graduate award. Since 1989 Wei Dong's works have been exhibited in various group shows throughout China.

1968 Born in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia.
1985-87 Studied art at the Beijing Academy of Arts and Crafts.
1987-91 Studied art at Beijing Normal Institute (Renamed Capital Normal University in 1993).
1991 Earned B.A. and Best Graduate Award.


1989 Group exhibition, Here We Come I, Capital Normal University, Beijing, PRC.
1990 Group exhibition, Here We Come II, Capital Normal University, Beijing, PRC.
1991 One-man exhibition, Huadu Hotel Art Gallery, Beijing, PRC.
1992 Group exhibition, Beijing 1991, National Art Gallery, Beijing, PRC.
Group exhibition, National Art 1990's, Worker's Palace, Beijing, PRC.
Group exhibition, TheYellow River, National Art Gallery, Beijing, PRC.
Group exhibition, The First National Traditional Painting Exhibition, Worker's Palace, Beijing, PRC.
Group exhibition, The 8th National Art Exhibition, National Art Gallery, Beijing, PRC.
1995 Group exhibition, Contemporary Art from Beijing and Shanghai, Gotemborgs Art Museum, Goteborgs, Sweden.
Group exhibition, Chinese Avant-Garde Art, Centre d' Art Santa Monica, Barcelona, Spain.
Individual exhibition, Wei Dong - Ancient Stage, Modern Players, Plum Blossoms Gallery, Hong Kong and Singapore.


Individual exhibition, The Age of Innocence, Plum Blossoms Gallery, Hong Kong


Individual exhibition, River of Time, Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, USA.
Individual exhibition, Paintings by Wei Dong, Orient Foundation, Macao.
Group exhibition, Innovation from China, Caermerklooster, Gent, Belgium.
Group exhibition, La Biennale de Issy, France.

1994 (April) Jiangsu Art Magazine.
1994 (Sept) Jiangsu Art Magazine.

Wei Dong - Ancient Stage, Modern Players, Plum Blossoms Gallery