Born in Qingdao, China, and living in Düsseldorf, Krefeld and Stuttgart, artist Xianwei Zhu (*1971) talks about the central message of his artistic work during his interview.
Please describe the core theme and central message of your work.
Since 2014 I have been concentrating on creating landscape paintings. Behind the landscape painting is our understanding and our thinking about the concept of nature. After experimenting with different means of expression and painting styles, it is a process of returning for me. A return to the Eastern culture I studied as a young boy, to the origins of ancient Chinese painting, to the spirit of European romantic painting. A return to the mountains and forests described by the Chinese poets and Hölderlin. Nature is the source of both Eastern and Western cultures, it is the source and home of our common culture as human beings.
In a landscape No. 1, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 200 x 130 cm
We, on the other hand, are in a time of crisis, a time in which the rapid development of digital information technology threatens our very existence. Our relationship to nature, to ourselves, to others and to society is in question. Attention and reflection on this issue are essential for solving our current problems. I want people to go back to our symbiotic relationship with nature, just as our ancestors did for generations. I believe that when we face a crisis, we can draw the power of rebirth from nature.
Introduce us to the work that you think exemplifies the message of your work, or that you think best embodies it.
The four-part picture “To enjoyed No. 1” In this exhibition in Berlin. The picture shows a landscape in the Danube valley in southern Germany. It shows rocks, rivers, clouds, trees and little hikers. The painting is based on my memories. I used to go for walks there with my friends, paint and meditate. It is a landscape, but not a realistic one. It is memories and experiences in nature. The heavy mountains criss-cross the landscape and the clear white clouds add a sense of mystery. I don’t want to see the landscape with my eyes, like Monet did, but with the eyes of my mind, like Caspar David Friedrich and the ancient Chinese did. So it is not a visible landscape that she embodies, but an inner landscape. The same goes for my other works, all of which are inner feelings and reflections that I convey through the landscape. The landscape is only the carrier.
To genossenen Nr. 1., 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 116 x 292 cm
By the way, at this point I would like to explain where the title comes from. It is a composition by the French composer Eric Satie. I am obsessed with his music and often listen to it when I paint. His mysterious and ethereal music makes me very calm and the atmosphere is in perfect harmony with my paintings. Both divert and transcend thoughts from time.
What is the goal of your art, your work – what effect should it have on the viewer?
Looking at a painting requires calm, looking at it and developing associations takes a long time. I wish that the viewer slowly enters my paintings, stops thinking with his head, remembers his own experiences in nature and thinks about the absurdity of time to discover his own unchanging existence.
Searching for the freedom, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 54 x 38 cm
The purpose of the painting is the viewing experience, not superficial political views or illustrations. I hope that my paintings have a kind of spiritual power, not to catch the eye, but to slowly penetrate the viewer’s inner eye. In such a busy world, to help people feel themselves.
THE DEED | DAS WERK is a complementary and separately presented part of THE INTERVIEW IN|DEEDS with Xianwei Zhu.
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