text / Liu Xiaodong

It was Danqing who introduced me to Weng Yunpeng in the 1990s. My daughter was two years old then, and she called him Weng Weng. He is extremely patient and has a childlike playfulness; he is warm and gets on well with adults too. He now studies painting, but at the time he was doing business––that was the era of bicycles, and he already had two cars, who cares if they were only Santanas.

In 1996 he suddenly abandoned business to begin a master’s degree in the oil painting department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, a move that seemed similar to Lu Xun abandoning medicine for literature. I joked with him, “Is that necessary, your paintings are ultimately sold for money, and you already have money, do you really need to paint?” He couldn’t help but smile silently and say, “I really like painting.” He was as bashful as a child acknowledging his first love.

Weng Weng isn’t really suited to the long-term studies at the academy, and his painting assignments in his classes always seemed a little like they were done in his spare time.

In his 1996 graduation work he didn’t paint his figures directly, but put them instead on a television. This television was sometimes in a corner of an average household, with uniform bricks behind it. What a startling sight! In a time where we were focused on paintings of first-hand reality, beholding this kind of tableau was really quite shocking. Second-hand reality held such an atypical power.

In 2000 he entered Chen Danqing’s PhD class at the School of Fine Arts and Crafts. He didn’t paint much, most of his time was spent on intern work for this new PhD candidate.

Suddenly, a few years later he held an exhibition, where he filled the walls of 798’s massive Season’s Gallery with his televisions and a related installation. These scenes surround each of our everyday lives: on the urban fringes, in small and low-budget hotels, in small, oily restaurants, the television spouts real world current affairs, it broadcasts news as well as various kinds of pornography. His paintings remind us to observe the surroundings when we are watching television. What a simple and long-absent truth, one we can randomly associate with such things as: don’t forget your best friends when you are drinking, don’t forget the manure when you are planting vegetables, and don’t forget that sandstorms result from chopping down trees, or there will be wars in times of peace.

And so on, and so on…,

Later he held an exhibition at the Today Art Museum––Weng Weng truly jumped into the television. He digs his images directly from TV, prints them as pictures and juxtaposes various images together, producing an association hard to describe. This task is much more demanding than his painting, for he carries his enormous camera to the television and photographs like crazy, in tens of thousands of pictures he mulls over the indescribable relationship they share, giving us a flavorful world.

Weng Weng works quietly, is a peaceful and calm person, although his artworks bring us countless surprises and obsessions, challenging our habits and the way we look at the world.

March 25, 2010