THE INTERVIEW IN|DEEDS: Xianwei Zhu

PROLOGUE | PERSONAL

Xianwei, imagine welcoming us into your studio or home. Where shall we speak, where shall we meet you? In my new studio in Düsseldorf Heerdt, With huge windows, bright light in an industrial area. Maybe we’re sitting at your favorite place? The corner with the old leather armchairs in front of the window.

DEEDS WORLD - Xianwei Zhu in his studio - 3 - courtesy the artist

Xianwei Zhu in his studio, courtesy the artist

You were born in 1971 in Qingdao, China, where you were a lecturer at the university there from 1996 to 2000 before you came to Germany in 2001. Where do you currently live and work? I currently live and work in Düsseldorf, Krefeld and Stuttgart. Which stations and people have particularly influenced you in your life so far? There have been many stations in my life: As a child, I studied painting with a Chinese master for many years. He was to be a very important person who put me on the path of art. After that, I studied painting at the China Academy of Art. At the beginning of the 1990s, art education in China was very closed and the teaching system in terms of realistic painting was completely conservative. But at my academy I saw German Expressionism, New Painting, Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, Gerhart Richter through the media, and that really impressed me. After that I decided to come to Germany. My time at the art academy in Stuttgart was a phase in which I experimented freely with different artistic languages. These stations are very important to me now, and the accumulation step by step allows me to find my own painting language.

DEEDS WORLD - Xianwei Zhu - portrait in studio - courtesy the artist

Xianwei Zhu in his studio, courtesy the artist

Which writers do you find exciting at the moment and which books are on your bookshelf? I like reading philosophy and poetry, Heidegger, Hölderlin, Rilke, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and ancient poems from China. Which books have influenced or shaped you? The Serenity by Martin Heidegger; “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu and Han Shan’s book of poetry, Cold Mountain. Many of my paintings are influenced by Han Shan’s poem. What are you currently reading and where is the book to hand? I am currently re-reading Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. I often read my books several times because I can repeat familiar passages. You often discover new things. Books that I am currently reading are lying next to the sofa or on the bedside table. What music do you listen to and when? I like listening to music by Tom Waits, Eric Satie and Bach. Music is particularly important to me when I paint. If you could cook something for us what would it be Braised beef, a Chinese specialty. What is your favourite food? Seafood dishes. What do you think of breakfast? A good breakfast is the start of the day, followed by tea or coffee. Then I start to paint. What sport or balance to your work do you do? My painting requires a lot of physical movement and it is also a sport for me. I also like hiking and swimming.

DEEDS WORLD - Xianwei Zhu in his studio - 4 - courtesy the artist

Xianwei Zhu, courtesy the artist

Do you have special passions that you burn for, and if so, which ones? At the age of 20 I was crazy about Chinese rock n’ roll, in university I was the lead singer of a band and now I prefer to be in the quiet nature. Example hiking, camping by the lake … What personality trait makes you particularly special? I think I’m very open and honest. Do you have a concern that you would like to share with us? Or an answer to a question (not asked by us) that is currently on your mind? Do your own thing and have fun doing it. Let nature take its course. An old Chinese proverb.

DEEDS WORLD - Xianwei Zhu - painting performance - courtesy the artist

Xianwei Zhu during a performance, courtesy the artist

INTERVIEW | ARTIST + POSITION

We would like to briefly present your artistic career. From 1989 to 1993 you studied art education at the Shandong University, from 1993 to 1996 painting at the China Art Academy in Hangzhou. From 1996 to 2000 you were a lecturer at Qingdao University. From 2001 you studied free painting at the Stuttgart State Academy of Fine Arts with Cordula Güdemann, graduating in 2008. In the following year, 2009, you received a teaching position at the Merz Academy in Stuttgart. From 2010 to 2012 you were a visiting professor at the Beijing Film Academy and from 2016 to 2020 at the Yunnan Art Academy. 2020 -2021 you received a teaching position at the Technical University of Dortmund. Did we miss an important station?

That’s pretty much it. Over the years I have mainly worked as a freelance artist.

What are you most concerned about at the moment; what is on your mind?

Most of all I think about how I can further develop my painting.

Your works are currently on show at the CSR Contemporary Show Room in Berlin as part of the exhibition HUMANITY. What made you choose these works?

I recently exhibited new work on the subject of emptiness and whiteness. Wisdom is a play on words… (Editor’s note: Word play from the German words Weißheit (“whiteness”) and Weisheit (“wisdom”).

DEEDS WORLD - Interview Xianwei Zhu - in a landscape No 7 180 x 150 cm 2021 - 6

Xianwei Zhu, in a landscape No. 7, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 180 x 150 cm

How did you get into art? Why art?

It was my childhood dream to become a painter. I was lucky enough to realize my dream. Art is the language of the human soul and it is a blessing to be able to freely express the inner world.

What makes you happy right now?

This is too much, painting our blooming garden, hiking in the mountains, in nature …

Xianwei Zhu, The Origin, 2021-2022, Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 200 cm

What are you currently afraid of?

Fear eats the soul. I believe in a saying from Zen Buddhism; Every day is a beautiful day.

Do you think art has a social responsibility? And what do you think it can do?

Art must be the natural expression of every artist and therefore it is best not to give it any socio-moral or religious function. But good art can be a true expression of the inner human heart or a response to social problems and is therefore good for the health of society.

DEEDS WORLD - Xianwei Zhu in his studio - courtesy the artist

Xianwei Zhu, courtesy the artist

What is your art? What is your work about – what are the central themes?

For me, painting is a way to find my inner truth. Currently the subject of my paintings is the landscape. People in the digital age are becoming more and more distant from nature and I hope that my paintings inspire a desire to go back to nature.

Read Xianwei Zhu’s response to his work further in THE DEED | DAS WERK

How do you protect yourself from too much inspiration these days?

To paint.

How much of your work is planned beforehand – how much is created intuitively?

I paint without a plan. My approach is to let nature take its course.

DEEDS WORLD - Xianwei Zhu in his studio - 2 - courtesy the artist

Xianwei Zhu, courtesy the artist

What are your (next) goals?

I don’t set myself any goals, I just want to paint freely.

How do you feel about faith? Do you have any beliefs or is there a motto?

I’m not religious but I’m open to religion. God is not God personified, God is an invisible and perceptible being. Lao Tzu called it Tao. It’s all. Let go.

DEEDS WORLD - Interview Xianwei Zhu - great sound 150 × 270 cm 2020 - 2021

Xianwei Zhu, great sound, 2020 – 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 150 × 270 cm

Which project would you still like to realize if lack of time, lack of courage or financial resources played no role?

I don’t design goals, many things have to go with the flow. If I had enough time, I would like to paint more larger and stronger works.

In your opinion, what are the attributes of good art?

Unique and extraordinary artistic language, simple, powerful and direct!

Are you born an artist? Or is an art degree compulsory in your opinion?

Some people are born artists. An art degree is still necessary, but not all artists necessarily need a degree.

To whom do you show a new work first?

To my wife who is also an artist.

DEEDS WORLD - Interview Xianwei Zhu - back to the roots No1 150 x 250 cm - 7

Xianwei Zhu, back to the roots No. 1, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 150 x 250 cm

What does the first hour of your day look like?

I don’t like to get up early, I have my breakfast in peace and when I have nothing else to do, I go painting.

Are galleries still necessary in the age of the Internet of Things? If so, why and for what?

For me it is YES. Since my skills are in painting, promotion and sales should be handled by a more professional person.

Social media – blessing or curse?

There is too much information these days, too much for me, I like the simple life.

EPILOGUE | CURRENT

The exhibition HUMANITY with 16 paintings by  Xianwei Zhu alongside works by five other Chinese contemporary artists can be seen from 25 June to 30 July 2022 in the CSR CONTEMPORARY SHOW ROOM, Friedrichstraße 67-70, 10117 Berlin-Mitte.

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The DEEDS interviews are not edited or shortened by our editorial team and are always reproduced in original sound. Therefore, we do not translate the interview into English or German unless the interviewee submits a translation or we are entrusted with the translation. Here, the English version of the interview was submitted by the artist.

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