The meaning of another layer of painting
Jan 17 - Mar 05, 2015

Press Release

Curator: Huang Du

Present by: Sun Yongzeng

Exhibition Director: Liu Chenya,Cao Maochao

Exhibition Coordinator: Shen Feifei

Organized by: WhiteBox Art Center

WhiteBox Art Center  January 17,2015-March 5,2015

“The Counterpart of Paintings”-Wen Wu Solo Exhibition, which is curated by Huang Du, will be held in White Box Art Center in Beijing 798 on January 17, 2015.


What does it mean as talking about “the counterpart of paintings”? The recent pictorial practices of Wen Wu’s could be used as exact examples to illustrate this item. Inspired by various food cutters in daily life, Wen tried to establish an individual dimension about art. He has stumbled across the mechanical effect of food cutters that they transform the patterns of substances when under the subjective manipulations by human beings. Converting the whole into standardized slices, this kind of machine has its compelling powers to deindividualize. Furthermore, it shows how unique an artist is in terms of concepts and styles if applying to the process of painting. For Wen, he made use of the thick trait of pigments as far as possible to depict the figures on canvas with layer upon layer, which creates a form full of sense of sculptures. He then cut the layers of pigments with a DIY cutter to transform the paintings; it “deformed” the figures while “generated” a new one at the same time. In other words, such practice maintained the manipulative proportion of paintings as well as displayed the uncertain elements due to mechanical cutting. Therefore, it can be said that it was Wen who brought about a new dimension of paintings.


The recent works of Wen’s focused on the dialectical relationship between material and spirit; with oils as medium, he first disintegrated the figures and interpreted them and then attempted to extend the meanings among paintings. In his works, paintings are the expression vector not only for symbols but also for the characters of materials.


This is the first solo exhibition in China after Wen’s travelling in Germany. Wen has ever studied at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and held international solo exhibition and joint exhibition more than once. Moreover, his works have been accessioning in celebrated art museums and collectors in Europe. This exhibition in White Box Art Center may present a number of great pieces of his collection. 

Curator Article

Wen Wu, a personal way of Painting

by Huang Du

Wen Wu is interested in the relationship between the literal and the metaphorical power of paint. By depicting everyday objects in thick, coarse layers of pigment, the artist reduces the subject matter to its essence, allowing for immediate recognition to something so specific and yet so general at the same time. By doing so, he also calls attention to the medium. Painting becomes more than a symbolic vessel; it asserts the tangibility of the objects it represents. When one looks at Wen Wu's recent paintings, one is left with an indelible impression.

Today, artists continue to explore unique and innovative methods of creation, hoping to invent a new visual language. In the same vein as Lucio Fontana— who brilliantly expanded the creative possibilities of a two-dimensional painting by taking a blade to it — Wen Wu found inspiration in a food slicer. Observing the manual operation of mechanical food cutters, Wen Wu was fascinated by how they rhythmically and predictably cut food into standardised shapes. When Wen Wu uses this “dehumanising” mechanical method in his paintings, the resulting imagery is compelling, unique and obviously made by an individual — one with an ingenious thought process. Wen Wu begins by adding layer upon layer of pigments, forming a thick, almost sculptural slab. He then uses his self-made cutting device to slice the layers of paint, which becomes displaced and distorts the image. The original image is destroyed, giving way to a new one.

The handcrafted “human” quality of painting coupled with the spontaneous image cut by machine highlights the dichotomies an artist often grapples with: human and machine production, composition and deconstruction, deliberation and chance.
Of his Self Analysis series of works, Wen Wu says: “they can be seen as retrospection of my past experience in painting. The separation of layers of my thick pigment paintings by food cutter is my method of dissecting the thin laminae of my unveiled imagination. It allows me to turn my previous paintings into a process of deconstruction, and it also shortens the distance of imagination between the artist and the viewer.” (1) It is a playful intervention of traditional art practice. Together, mind, body and machine contribute to the process of construction and deconstruction. Hence, a tension arises because an external object is used to disrupt the original experience of painting. By thinking beyond the two-dimensionality of painting and emphasising its sculptural and even performative attributes in space and time, Wen Wu revolutionises the experience of art making and art viewing.

Wen Wu's paintings is influenced by the German plastik, which means to "sculpt" or to build up the shapes of people and objects in paintings, also emphasises the act of deconstruction. Wen Wu’s new painting method focuses on the opposing concepts of "construction" and "deconstruction". The artist processes macroscopic and microscopic images of everyday objects or historic figures by hand and by machine. Removing details and contextual clues, the images become purely visual forms. Again, it seems as if the paintings elude a critical stance; however, the artist actually overthrows the human penchant for signifiers. The artist thus undermines the tendency to reduce collective memories, political languages, social statuses, fashion icons, personal identities, scenes from everyday life into mere symbols. For instance, in the work Self Analysis (128 x192 cm, oil on canvas, 2013), Wen Wu depicts a Hai Nan-style cooked chicken on a plate, applying his usual concept and method. The image is composed of 64 small icons, suggesting that nothing escapes artificial manipulation. The idea is reinforced by the artist’s signature slicing process.

Despite such drastic manipulation, the chicken dish is still immediately recognisable. Another unexpected result are peculiar streaks and blots caused but the displacement of thick paint by the cutting machine. In the works Conflict (80 x 100 cm, oil on canvas, 2006), Face to Face (60 x 140 cm, oil on canvas, 2012), Untitled (40 x 110 cm, oil on canvas, 2013) and ID Card (40 x 110 cm, oil on canvas, 2014), Wen Wu cut the thick layer of paint and transferred it onto another canvas, creating a rorschach effect. The contrast between the artist’s hand and machine becomes apparent. One can see the relationship between calculation and accident, technology and nature, imagination and reality.

Wen Wu also devotes himself to abstract painting, which allows him to study the relationship between pure colours and forms without the constraints of depicting figurative representation.

In works like in Untitled (100 x 90 cm, oil on canvas, 2014), Rooftop (230 x 200 cm, oil on canvas, 2014) and Rainbow (120 x 90 cm, oil on canvas, 2014), the rich textures and colours give the viewer a very palpable sense of the artist’s presence. One can easily imagine how the artist crushes, cut, scraped, applied and sliced the vivid colour pigments to arrive at this point. Wen Wu's work does not prescribe to any specific theory or doctrine. He is merely interested in challenging universal and societal ideas of how art is made and viewed.


Installation View


  • Untitled_Oil on canves_220 x 630cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_150 x 400cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_100 x 220cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_80 x 80cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_80 x 80cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_80 x 480cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_240 x 120cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_140 x 110cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_40 x 55cm_2012
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_80 x 160cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_220 x 420cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_100 x 180cm_2013
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_100 x 200cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_40 x 110cm_2013
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_55 x 80cm_2013
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_100 x 120cm_2013
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_100 x 120cm_2012
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_40 x 55cm_2012
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_40 x 55cm_2013
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_40 x 55cm_2012
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_40 x 55cm_2012
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_40 x 55cm_2012
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_40 x 55cm_2012
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_55 x 80cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_140 x 110cm_2013
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_120 x 90cm_2013
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_100 x 90cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_100 x 90cm_2014
  • Untitled_Oil on canves_100 x 90cm_2014

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