To classify Zheng Xuewu as a painter or printmaker would be to deny him the truer title of artist. Zheng's mature, yet constantly evolving style combines traditional Chinese aesthetics with contemporary language and motifs. His unique works are difficult to categorize, as even the artist himself admits.
Zheng's early works of contrasting black and white designs served as an inspiration for the works produced today. It was shortly after 1991 that he began crossing different artistic paths creating arrangements that provide the viewer with a fresh and visually attractive work. He began experimenting with different techniques and medium, including traditional and contemporary Chinese printing, manual application of colour, a combination of Chinese characters and English letters, along with abstract drawings and stamps. The result, when seen from a distance, is of strong contrasts of coloured shapes that beckon you closer to find deeper intricacy in the characters, motifs and symbols.
When beginning a new work, Zheng only has an approximate or general idea of what the final mono-print will look like. Instead, he listens to and trusts the accidental phenomena, orou ran, that is produced in the end.
When asked why he does not title his works, as well as what feeling he wants to convey, Zheng's response is one of an authentic and genuine understanding of art. His desire is for the viewer to be visually pleased by the beautifully sophisticated combination of technique medium, clours, patterns and designs. Furthermore, he believes that a title would only distract from ones own ideas and impressions. The viewers are able to decide for themselves what the work is about.
Zheng places equal emphasis on all of the individual steps in the creative process. He also feels that any one pan of the work is of no more importance than another. The totality of the visual effect is paramount. Through this method, Zheng uses his works to communicate with others, both Chinese and non-Chinese. Thus, it is clear that although Chinese may wonder about the English lettering, and non-Chinese may wonder about the Chinese characters or icons, Zheng does not promote this symbolism in his works.
Zheng Xuewu hopes that through the beauty and comfort found in his works a viewer will appreciate it now and in many years to come.
A Labyrinth of Reality
"Artists need to use individual styles to create their own art history," says Zheng Xuewu of Mainland China's contemporary art production. Looking through the works in this catalogue, it is clear that the artist follows his own creed. Zhengs works defy categorization, be that in comparison to other contemporaries or the art historical canon. Instead, his multi-faceted oeuvre rests firmly within the context of urban Chinese reality and presents an unvarnished view of the present.
In all three series featured in this catalogue, Traditional Girl, Symbol, and Beautiful Scenery, Zheng Xuewu's obsession with variety of materials, fonts, and textural quality is apparent. The artist avails himself of any media that is absorbent or soluble as long as it is malleable enough to either receive or convey ink. Most of Zheng's materials are gathered from among the debris of contemporary visual culture, be that leftover type fonts from newspapers or thrown out woodblocks for traditional prints. His compositions combine traditional and contemporary Chinese images, Chinese and Arabic characters, abstract drawings and stamps. Also, the artist applies both acrylic and ink to the imprinted surfaces.
It is the accidental [ou ran] that guides Zheng Xuewus compositions. Their labyrinthine quality makes our journey through the picture plane a daunting one. From afar, the images consist of two components: object and ornamentation. Image No. 10 from the Symbol Series, for example, initially presents us with a group of similar figures and hardly distinguishable embellishments. Up close, however, we find that each figure is distinctive and that the background consists of a cacophony of intertwined Chinese glyphs, Arabic numerals and Chinese seal imprints. The hustle and bustle of an urban Chinese environment is ingeniously conveyed.
Zheng Xuewu does not entitle any of his works -- only the series as a whole. The individual works are numbered for cataloguing purposes but remain otherwise unidentified. "I don't want to direct the viewers thoughts. I want him to be guided by the artwork itself," says Zheng. Similarly, we do not find the artists signature on picture front. Despite the apparent attempt to withdraw the creator from the image, Zheng Xuewus cultural roots and therefore the artists hand - are undeniably strong in each of the works belonging to these series.
In the works included in this catalogue, Zheng Xuewu fully taps into the power of China's traditional, modern and representative cultural symbols. By linking these with contemporary urban society, he creates unique compositions that adhere to his personal concept of aesthetics. Zheng believes that it is important for contemporary Chinese artists to have a foothold in their own culture. Such firm grounding will allow us to be outstanding artists on the international platform. No doubt, Zheng Xuewu is well on the way of achieving such a standing.
Xenia Tetmajer von Przerwa
Drawings of Xuewu In My Eyes
Since the 1930s, early printing has developed into a successful vehicle for multiple editions from a single woodcut block. Zheng Xuewu's woodcuts are the unique flower in a colorful garden. His woodcut works do not pay attention to theme or content, but focus on printing ideas and forms, and in pursuit of artistic quality, Xuewu seeks innovation, beauty and change. Judging from his pieces, he implements the simple repeated symbols to organize each picture. This artistic effect is simple but not monotonous, repeated but not dull. The seemingly multifaceted pictures are formal and orderly. Various symbols appear here and there, making his work colorful and intensely interesting. Due to careful integration of printing and design, his works have a highly decorative flavor.
Art lies in innovation. I like Xuewus spirit of innovation. He does not repeat his predecessors or his counterparts. He walks along his own path. In other words, artists can only stand out and form their own artistic style if they explore with an open mind. Only when artists focus on individual character, explore possibilities, and stay true to their unique selves, can they then stand out and form their own artistic style. After years of hard work and exploration, Xuewus engravings have gradually formed into his own unique style. His single drawing prints have won love from audiences and printmaking collectors alike, and I am happy and celebrate him. As a peer, I hope he continues to transcend and move on, always climbing higher towards arts peak.
Famous Engravings artist
Director of Collection Dep. National Art Museum of China, Member of Specialist Commission
Zheng Xuewu is a steady, sincere, study-loving, and diligent printmaker. He has a spirit for artistic creation that is beyond comparison. And in his exploration of art processes and forms, he also has surprising patience. Recently, I saw recent works of Zheng Xuewu in Prayer Bead and Brushwork, an exhibition inn 798 Factory curated by Li Xianting. These works, no matter the breakthrough of understanding or the change of conception, seem relatively mature. Themes of his works emphasize simplicity and the ordinary, reducing the mystery often found in art. In his works, he keeps employing repeat means to locate graphics and glyph into symbols, and lets these symbolic graphics link together in a static form.
After years of artistic practice and tireless efforts allows his work to surpass the past. The first works by Zheng Xuewu have some vagueness in selection and use of complicated graphics, text, and numbers. Now his works are a bright, clear, complete and mature language. This is inseparable from his constant artistic exploration, thinking, and summarizing. He uses integrated form and language and adds some Chinese culture connotations to make these special Chinese folk graphics, characters, and numbers collide, intertwine, and overlap, and mutually dissipating, making these symbolic graphics into a complementing whole.
Zheng Xuewu indeed contributes a lot of time and energy to printmaking. The number and frequency of exhibitions of his work proves this. Speed wins him more time and steadiness allows him to search for a clear artistic path. Answers can be found in thise hot red tones, cool blues, and luxuriant yellows of his picture. Another point also worth mentioning is that in Zheng Xuewus work, he skillfully uses light, color, texture, and structure of mass blocks. And those unreal graphic forms make his recent printmaking vocabulary freshen up. When I watch the scatter-plot color embedded in every corner of his work, the subtle and delicate spots often sparkle as pin-points of light, through which the flashing light shines on, a steady and confident figure.
Famous oil painter
Professor Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts
About Zheng Xuewu
Zheng Xuewu is a friend whom I have known for a decade. Watching Xuewu's art track, despite several small changes, his method of expression with multiple printed symbols as his main painting elements can be found in each phase of his work. In my opinion, his interest in art research is most in unison with painting and engraving language, representation of figurative symbols and the abstract structure, and grasp of conflict between reason and passion. His works fully reflect deep exploration of the abstract art language and the unique perspective of social problems of a modern Chinese artist. Although the pictures use heavy and complicated forms of expression, it is easy to see that his pursuit of spiritual realm is pure and concise. In his recent works, the lively, clear rhythm and setting of numbers and symbols together, I can see a new budding branch. I believe in the near future, there will be many new achievements by Xuewu.
Famous engravings artist
Deputy dean and professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts