April 24th through May 31st, 2015
Opening Reception: April 24th, 2015, 5-8pm
The exhibition Mildly Biting, Encountering Spring takes its title from an eponymous small-scale oil painting Wei finished in early summer in 2014. Leaping from the darkness and gloominess of his previous images and the fine, vivid brushstrokes, the piece depicts two people reclining by the grassy lakeside and looking over the distant with a multitude of layers of lush green. The peacefulness and easiness in the work brim with the stillness of time and the curiosity for life. Just as implied by the title, a new shift in Wei’s painting style in the recent two years is accomplished by the emergence of immaturity, shyness and the air of spring in his work.
After portraying youth and self repeatedly and consistently for over ten years and moving from naiveté to profound questioning and rejection of sentiments and desires, Wei Jia returns to a brighter tone and has divested his images of the previous gloom. The large-scale piece The Light in the Cloud (2014) emits a sense of chaos and openness that is rarely seen in Wei’s work. In an ostensible space comprised of forests and swamps limned by wild brushstrokes and thick pigments, an elusive male figure emerges from the distant mist and enters the ascending sacred light located at the center of the image. The classical and romantic qualities that permeate the work drag Wei Jia from his habitual observation of self-image and questioning of self into a quest for hope and selfhood. The relaxed, slightly expressionistic strokes freeze the artist’s reflection on the individual in space and time. Similar concerns are at stake in works like Sea Pictures (2015). Sea Pictures, boasting larger dimensions, attempts to translate the eponymous cello concerto composed by the 19th century English composer Edward Elgar into a grand landscape painting- the audience, both within and outside of the image, imagine woods and seascapes moving through temporal and spatial dimensions with the scenery in front of their eyes and through the seas and the fields.
Imagination and fiction constitute the extended world of Wei Jia’s painting. Mount St. Denis (2014) represents a non-existent realm delineated by Wei’s brush. It is a retrospect of the typical landscapes that are featured in classical paintings, but represents at the same time Wei’s pursuit of a remote spiritual world – just as how people in the images tramp about in open fields. The action of walking and pursuing repeats itself in multiple pieces that are in the show, as exemplified by the encounters between people in a clear but simultaneously blurry space in Elapsed Time (2014) and Time Flies (2014). These scenes, resembling those that appeared in Bergman’s films, pinpoints Wei’s wait and belief that are born out of but also diverge from the adolescent adventure and the cycle of life that haunt his earlier works.
The exhibition will also feature a number of small-scale portraits by the artists, continuing Wei’s fascination with the image and the corporeal form of youth. Reminiscing about the lapse, beauty and sorrow of youth, they also serve as memorabilia of some insoluble privacy.
Wei Jia was born in 1975 in Chengdu, Sichuan. He attended Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, where he majored in printmaking and graduated in 1999. Since his early career, Wei Jia’s works, including not only his highly acclaimed prints but also the oil on canvas in his transformative years, recreate with simple, smooth lines and bright, flat and graphic colors the restlessness and innocence of the new generation of urban youth who are just stepping into the real world. His signature series An Uncivilized Spring, depicts the confrontation between teenagers among trees, flowers, cliffs and sparse urban landscapes. These images demonstrate the confusion and cruelty of growing up, and turned later on into darker and colder ones. Paintings produced in this period retain the portrayal of teenagers – among them the self-image of the artist appears repeatedly- and are swept into scenes of self-denial, questioning, destruction and a renewed search for selfhood. The classicizing and theatricalization of scenes and human figures, as well as a heavy sense of religious ritual entailed in the plot, are all rendered by the inner turmoil of the young generation who are approaching maturity and are trapped in the rapid transformation of urban and youth culture. The series also made Wei one of the few persistent creators among today’s young artists who continue the exploration of the individual experience and mood via the poetics of painting and the classical representational vocabulary.
Wei Jia has exhibited extensively and internationally, including Within Sight–Chinese New Painting at Post Financial Crisis Era (Taylor Foundation, Paris, 2015), Spectacle Reconstruction-Chinese Contemporary Art (MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts, Debrecen, 2013), Spin: The First Decade of the New Century (Today Art Museum, Beijing, 2012), The Frank-Suss Collection (Saatchi Gallery, London, 2012), CHINA MANIA (Arken Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, 2009), The Power of Practice – the Second Document Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Prints (Nanjing Museum, Nanjing, 2008), Visual Experiences First Exhibition (National Art Museum of China, Beijing, 2007), China’s Neo Painting, A Triumph Over Images (Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, 2007), Energy: Spirit, Body, Material— The First Today’s Documents (Today Art Museum, Beijing, 2007), etc. His recent solo exhibitions include Mildly Biting, Encountering Spring (LEO XU PROJECTS, Shanghai, 2015), PORTRAIT (Michael Ku Gallery, Taipei, 2012), Dim Light on the Opposite Shore: Wei Jia Solo Exhibition (Star Gallery, Beijing, 2011), In the Distant Fields and Smoky Woods (Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, 2009), etc.
Wei Jia lives and works in Chongqing.