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2016年01月06日

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

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Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

From the figurative to abstraction, from painting to installation, from the 1990s to the present, He Wenjue’s artistic language has undergone various transformation and reconfigurations. In his primary subject, power, lust and death exist in various forms –an overwhelming lake where ambiguous figures often seen on television are placed in front of it, and the dazzling city light, ceramic glaze are like dreams and bubbles…

I.  Ubiquity

He Wenjue’s depiction of power is mainly shown in his painting Supper in Great Times in large dimensions done between 2010-2011. In this work, he depicts power as the game between the runners for capital and occupier of wealth. Those familiar Chinese entrepreneurs are placed in the painting based on the motif of the Last Supper. All of them are in the same social class with respectable capital power, no one outside of this class appeared on this image, even the central figure whose face is covered seem to hold a respectable identity and high position (even though it may be pretenses, his acting is superb). The artist considers the game of capital as a competition in operating the system of power. The abstract concept of power and capital is permeated into his artistic practice. In the contemporary society today, confronted with the competition of power and capital, many people have chosen to avoid it, but the reality is, in the globalized era, we can no longer hide.

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue,  Supper in Great Times ,  Oil on canvas, 75.5x240cm, 2010 (sketch)

He Wenjue’s representation of landmark architectures throughout the world began in 2013, he created a series of sketches on worldly sceneries, consisting of remarkable and classical buildings. The British architecture critic Deyan Sudjic once commentedthat architecture is an eloquence of power, it constitutes as part of the urban landscape that dictates power eternally, it is a tool for an individual or a nation to manifest its identity, an expression of power and wealth, a way of creating and recording history. In the past, He Wenjue entrusts his own system of power on subjects of his paintings in order to reveal and symbolize the self, and in his recent installation, The Great Wall, the mode of expression adopted in his paintings are extended to this medium, he deconstructs the architectural language of the Great Wall and uses pieces of golden brick as the metaphor for power, and placing them into various spaces. Comparing to the sweeping brushstrokes, this method seems more condensed and rational, and the forthrightly expresses his goal.

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue, Great Wall

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue, Daily Images-Glass Pyramid, oil on canvas, 100cmx80cm, 2013

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue, Power Lust Death,  Stainless Steel,  Variable Size,2006-2009

II. Flower to the Dead

Many of He Wenjue’s works use gold as his primary material in making installations, they are often placed in a solemn atmosphere, creating a strong sense of oppression and control, makes one feels solemn and monumental. Besides this series, the use of another material of the same period reduces such sense of oppression, which is ceramics.

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue, Blue, (clay idol details)

There are two icons occur frequently in He Wenjue’s works - the flower and the skull. Using them to express death and lust in works of art is common, for instance, the classic “Vanitas” paintings, the painting would often consider the skull as the central or main object of the painting, with the addition of flowers, sand glass, musical instruments and etc, they have used skull to symbolize life and death, at the same time, the flowers are metaphors for the traces left behind by the mundane life. this type of painting does not make one think of its shallow metaphorical meaning, or being a heavy subject, but the ultimate inevitability of death and the shortness of life, lamenting on the joy and happiness of the worldliness. He Wenjue used a new language to highlight such emptiness – repetition. He emphasizes repetitively on the solidity and eternity of flower and skulls, and installing them rhythmically, and use them continuously and repetitively, from one repetition to a deeper repetition. 

Note: “Vanitas”, latin, implies emptiness, disorderly, meaningless mundane life and fleeting vanity. In the Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:2, uses the term vanity of vanities; all is vanity. In the King James Version of the Bible, this term is translated as the emptiness of vanity, complete meaninglessness. And in the New International Version of the Bible, the term is translated into everything is meaningless.

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

Still-Life with a Skull, Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue 

Still Life with Bouquet and Skull, Adriaen van Utrecht (1599–1652)

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue, Lust for Death, Ceramic,220cmx100cmx12cm,2014-2015;

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue, Beautiful Life, Ceramic, 23x16x16cm x 108, 2013-2015

III. Destruction of the Physical Body

People often use the term “flood” to symbolize lust, and use “outpouring” or “flowing” to describe the outlet of desires, all of these terms are closely tied to water, if “water” is used as the metaphor to desire power and lust in He Wenjue’s works, then it is not difficult to discover that he has in fact entered his main subject twenty years ago, and have continued on this path until today.

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue, Water-2006, No.1,  oil on canvas, 400cm×250cm, 2006

The “figure” in He Wenjue’s paintings has experienced inflation, weakening, seclusion, and today the various forms of skeletons appear. Although the physical body has decayed, yet the artist hasn’t considered it as the end of life. He reconfigures death, and uses materials with social implications (bronze, gold, ceramics, white marble and etc.) to replace the physical body on a biological level, and reconnects life and death that have been separated in people’s minds, allowing the contrasting life and death to be reversible or even controllable. Through this approach, allowing more time gained in life. 

Or even, eternally.

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue, Eternity,Bronze、24K Gold,20 x 18 x 19cm,2007-2013;

Power Lust Death:He WenjueHe Wenjue,Four Blessing,  Ceramic, 尺寸不一 Variable Size, 2014-2015

Power Lust Death:He Wenjue

He Wenjue,  Butterfly Lovers,  Ceramic, 110x57x5cm, 2014-2015