Juxtaposed Images
Weng Yunpeng’s Approach of Visual Narrative(敘視)
By Fan Di’an
How to cope with the descending of a media era is a primal subject that has challenged contemporary artists. Today, all art genres have undergone various changes due to the influence of media. It’s very obvious that the influence of media is ubiquitous. When television and web technologies become a kind of world machine, our experiences gained through the images on TV and computers take the shape of a new common experience. This image not only alters our way of observing the world, but also become the core of our visual life.

Weng Yunpeng’s works first of all respond to the coming of the media era. At least, from the prospective of art language, we get to see his continuous motives throughout the years. By painting the existence of the media images, he expresses the image world that we reside in. As a contemporary artist, Weng is capable of changing his own approaches of art language, for instance, he could pick up the media language as his own, but what he believes in and perseveres with is still painting, the traditional language. What he is striving to do is to use the traditional language to overlap or even to incorporate new languages. Through his effort, juxtaposed images emerge in his paintings. With his brush, he has captured the images that have been seen by his very self and have been commonly experienced by the public. Therefore, we can say that he has transformed narrative in traditional paintings into visual narrative of contemporary paintings. His approach could be interpreted as a wise alleviation especially when the traditional painting is under the tremendous challenge of media images. Weng has found a new language for paintings as a response to the arrival of the media era.

As a matter of fact, this art approach precisely reflects on the personal character and the artistic attitude of Weng Yunpeng as an individual. He has always been an independent thinker in the complicated and changeable China’s contemporary art situation. He has almost never been after the trends and fads. however, he is unwilling to be lagged behind in the tendency of art development. He has been paying close attention to the winds of changes in the art world for many years. Even though he has been interested in art history and in the theoretical questions of contemporary art, he has never made any art manifestos or never sought for a frontier theory paradigm to back up his arts. Weng has explored and studied thoroughly into the painterliness of painting, but he has not stuck to the traditional one which mainly based on conventional techniques. He has been engaged himself in the thinking all the time: how to add more meaning into the painterliness through extra focus on culture, how to weed through the old to bring forth the new. Between his introvert thoughts and his impulse to seek for an outlet for expression, between his attentive interest and acute feeling, day in and day out, a tension has been gradually developed. Once the opportunity to express being obtained, Weng keeps working. In recent years, his works have had a unique style in concept. The development and enrichment of that concept actually is the result of the combination of his holding on to his own artistic attitude and his deep thoughts over the cultural meaning of art.

Mr. Chen Danqing made such comments on Weng Yunpeng’s works, “In Weng Yunpeng’s landscapes distant worlds and the world before our eyes, the world represented in the media and the world painted with oils overlap. The overlapping worlds simultaneously present their respective illusions and realities, reminding us of our relationship to those worlds.” This is how things stand. Weng Yunpeng has extended our vision through his paintings in paintings and images in imagines. In the process of observation, we have observed double images: one is the fixed reality he has seen and painted and the other is the flowing information he has captured. This double observation is a characteristic we experience in observing the world in the age of information. However, we can’t simply regard Weng Yunpeng’s language as a mere new way of painting. What we need is to fully realize that the visual situation that Weng has provided for us confirms the features of Chinese society in globalization. He portrays, in most of his paintings, the most common spaces of everyday life in China today. Those spaces show us the food, clothing, shelter and transportation of the common people. The focus on the reality of daily life indicates the scope of his experience of life. Looking directly, neither up nor down, into everyday life suggests his attitude of realism. It’s because of his genuine observation perspective that a huge amount of convincing details have been collected under his paint brush. Be it in the countryside or the city, unavoidably, China involves in the process of globalization. The information flashing on TV and the laptop shows the process. Important social news and significant international affairs have become a part of our daily life. Maybe they will not change the physical reality. However, they are the profound metaphors about the future changes of the material world. Without the slightest doubt, the waves of globalization and the domestic reality of China are emerging and contradicting. Their clashes bring forth reforms. In Weng Yunpeng’s works, important news is happening everywhere: in the corners of the countryside, in the junctures between town and country or in the very downtown area. The news infiltrates into our daily life in a simultaneous way. In a sense, they are the invisible hand, leading up to new changes in our life.

The significant theoretical topic of the relationship between globalization and domestic society has been revealed in a very direct way in Weng Yunpeng’s paintings. That’s where the cultural meaning of his works lies. In this aspect, what his visual narrative narrates not only the visible images, but also the knowable truth. This justifies our view that that his works will become the section of the reality in the changing China. And this also justifies our appraisal that his works are contemporaneous in the perspective of sociology.

There are at least two other traits that will support the contemporanity in Weng Yunpeng’s works. His works are series while at the same time they are developing. Some years ago, his focus was on the scenes of the countryside. He was concerned over the simple and even the poverty stricken reality in the villages and the sharp contrasts between country and the outside world; later, his focus shifted to the junctures between town and country. The urbanization background and the real life in the country contradicted each other and increased the conflicts; then, his focus moved from the public domain to a more personal and intimate behind the doors scenes. Weng emphasizes on the relation between the private life and the outside world. The TV set is replaced by a laptop computer to hint on the situation of an individual being surrounded by the world. This shift of his focus implies on the shift of the depiction of daily life reality to the depiction of the spiritual reality. The juxtaposed images bear the relation between the individual and the public instead of the previous relation between the public and the public. A conclusion can be drawn here that his concern over culture has deepened from the surface level to the spiritual plight. On that level, the reality of the society has to give way to the more impending individual spiritual reality. Secondly, during the shifts of the focus, something remains unchanged: his way of entitlement. In the titles of his paintings, he records the specific names of the place where he painted. He is using painting as his diary to recount the true happenings in his life. Also, Weng is like a traveler who feels and experiences the changes of the world on his journey. His work is simply to record his first-hand experience.

Juxtaposed images are not only the summary of Weng Yunpeng’s methodology; it is also the iconology expression of our time and reality. Back to the topic of the media, different media have influential and reshaping effect on each other, the reforms and derivations experienced by the media will lead us into the post-media stage. And on that stage, painting will be reborn into a new life.

October , 2008