Painting Printmaking Mixed Media

View All

You are here

Zheng Xuewu

From not being to being, or from being to not being: He Ping

Doctor of Arts of Nanjing Normal University, culture criticism scholar

In today’s world, the first thing that an artist encounters when beginning creation is realize self-growing and reflection in the vast “art history”. What’s so-called “art history” is actually accumulation of knowledge, common sense, experience and customs. They are sometimes tired and old, but of course some are long and new. The vast “art history” surely will create “gnaw-old-people” type rentiers. It should be clear that there are many famous artists out of “old college calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting class” among today’s China art world. Here, original creation of artists falls down to be “Saints and Bibles”. It seems that all achievements of being an artist is to become some certain master or the student of some unknown masters. While, our art criticism does not play its real part, for most of its time, its definition of artist is to allow him to find his origin. But art activity of Zheng Xuewu is just to remind us of reflection: whether one artist can refuse all etiquette and conventions, from not being to being? In fact, today’s so-called art “civilization” means always to “Tang and Song” and “Greek”, and many are fake artists without art element. Zheng Xuewu’s art action is actually back to origin point of art. There are no what so called art portal, catalog, material, system and streams. All is from need of free voice. Zheng Xuewu consciously has no origin, and becomes a cross-boundary traveler. 
Original word for expressing, turns to be beautiful signs. Word becomes flowing line and rhythm is just responsible for beauty.
He Ping

Honest speaking, if it stays before 1990s, Zheng Xuewu, as an artist can basically be crossed out. Although at that time, Zheng Xuewu already shows out at exhibitions big or small, this kind of showing out has no clear boundary and difference. Zheng’s growing mature in 1990s has no connection with his former creations. I even think some artists’ enter-level and future creations have no connection. He becomes himself after wasting him for a long time. Zheng is almost is kind of artist. 

Since 1990s, Zheng Xuewu tries to use the abandoned lead words to his creation. Chinese words become ever-growing art language in his art practice since then. Both Chinese capital and other elements combination game in his No Title serial (1995), in China Image (2004), inscriptions on ancient bronze objects and single storks are shown exaggeratively on frame front view, or even closer Zen’s Words (2007) of “words without any meaning fill the whole picture like pose” (Zheng Xuewy: about Zen’s Words), vision elements of his creation are continuously realized. It does not appear at the right as tool of spreading knowledge, but is continuously separated. In our experiences, meaning of existence of “Words” should come from combination of words as well as word and thing. There is customized language situation for world recognition. Words that are closer to today have even more complicated meaning attached to it, so that it should use various dictionaries to know the details. In thus meaningful “excessive attention”, word as original of word retreats. We just ignore that even single “word” has kind of self-beauty. This is obvious to Chinese character with pronunciation, style and meaning in one. He allows words to get away from its meaning. He ignores relation between word and thing, has no expectation of array and combination of words to refer to our world. Word is just word in paper. He only gives word temporal location on paper. For example, No Title 95-50, tens of words like “Wen”, “Shi”, “Mu”, and “Wen” just leaves their language situation and meet by accident. The amazing thing is there words may lose their meaning to not being, but gain being of art beauty. Array with no order of words naturally soften their self-meaning. Original word for expressing. turns to be beautiful signs. Word becomes flowing line and rhythm is just responsible for beauty. 

From the point of Art onto-genetics, art activity of Zheng Xuewu is like children’s game and doodle. This kind of art activity can track back to human’s childhood. At that time, art is intuitive and has no selection of materials. Art materials of Zheng Xuewu includes rubber English capitals, numbers, foam plates, hard plastic material, glass plate, metal materials, Stone carving, rubber sculpture, plastic erosion, cloth and paper, all color materials that can draw water and can leave track easily on paper. Traditional print making uses one piece or pieces of plate to print works. But because Zheng Xuewu uses different materials, his works is formed by different “plates”. Every lead word or every material’s print part is a “plate”. What’s more, Zheng takes no notice of print’s tradition, using hand drawing to fill space of print. Introduction of hand drawing frees his creation from tradition, becoming wandering ghost that cannot be classified. But all because this, Zheng Xuewu’s “print-like” picture combines beauty of print picture as well as freedom of hand drawing. 

If we take a closer look, it may not be difficult to find that, the materials that Zheng Xuewu uses are all daily-used articles. He seems to tell us, ignorance to our daily world is just ignorance to art. By his regularization, “materials” are regarded as daily articles without any art features now change to be artistic things. One becomes his grave-digger? Thus we have the reason to ask how Zheng Xuewu will answer the basic question of what is art. Another important question is, maybe he truly gains happiness from “addition”, or even beyond that. Those materials with signs find their places in his art world. But in the en, art is both personal and single, but also public and plural. A true artist can and must find his way to public. From human history angle, more complicated art works can also be explained. I notice in his works in his early period, almost all criticisms or even he realizes there is unique meaning. But except technique uniqueness, seldom can further explain art. I guess this may be auto difficult status. Around 1999, Zheng Xuewu begins “addition” by selection. This period, Zheng’s materials are not just abstract print pleasure----“Color’s Regularization” (works of the same title in 2000), but begins kind of meaningful question. I didn’t try to find form which time, or which work does Zheng find “Artistic China”. But what is sure is the existence of artistic “Old China”. His creations are not just simply from not being to being, but give our world “Art”. Furthermore, it goes a complicated art reflection process from old “being” to new “being”. 

One Wall of China (2001), Ink works (2001),The Art of War (2002), Confucianism (2003), Youth to Chairmen Mao (2002), Track of Warring States Period (2003), Chinese Calligraphy (2003), Sunset(2003), Sprit of Mountain and Water (2003), Han Wind (2003), Left Rhyme Serial (2003), China Image Serial (2004), Century Text “China Millennium Monument” (2005), East Mirror (2006-2007),Zen’s Words(2007), Century Text “Shandong Qufu” (2008) and Tiger in Cage (2008), all these are Zheng Xue wu’s personal art history. Just from these titles like wall, ink, mountain and water, Chinese character, Lady's Maid, Jian Book, inscription and Confucian Garden Temple and Palace, Cloth Tiger, he already becomes a creator of “Artistic China”. From careful study to these works related to “China”, it can be roughly seen, around 2003, his composition of his drawing has already undergone art shift from maximalism to minimalism. Due to full-around offence of classic “China Picture”, “China Image”, “China Figure”, “China View” and “China Sign”, and his works has cultural attractive beauty implication. For esthetes in different culture field, in western views, it is “he” and “uniqueness” with space meaning. But in local Chinese view, it is collective memory with time meaning, “past” and “future”. 

Different from No Title serial in the middle of 1990s, artistic quality of these works not just relies on physical array and combination of material color, texture and quality, but has cultural memory, imagination and reflection in it. What is the relation among Zheng Xuewu and vast “Art History”, and the world he lives? In the maximalism stage of “Addition” before 2003, we witness art products such as old version picture, poster, inscription, wall brick, seal cutting, calligraphy, especially use of Chinese character, if we admit Chinese character is kind of style art. Here, he not just vows to art’s old China. What we are familiar of “China Picture”, “China Image”, “China Figure”, “China View” and “China Sign”, as well as free handling of materials, plus hand random drawing, forms paper “marvel” of dramatic and exciting intertextuality, dialogue, refusing, fighting away, comprising and reconciliation. In certain meaning, this piece together “marvel” is just what China faces. Take attention of today’s China situation, there are more detail thinking in his “Century Text” and “Tiger in Cage”. For century text, paper roll, book table, book box and modern altar (China Millennium Monument and traditional altars like Confucian Garden and Confucian Temple, and Confucian Palace), that are formed by 120000 pieces of papers, Zheng has self-definitions. He thinks “Century Text” also records history specially, full of interesting and dull things big or small, world’s or China’s. but it specializes in that you know many things are there in it, you can help to read it. Because every roll is sealed, the contents are just kind of existence, allowing you to feel the paradox of words or non-word, reading or non-reading. (Zheng Xuewu: About Century Text). When I and my book are deep involved in Confucian world, we are the embodiment of outside world, listening to Confucian’s voice in peace, trying to talk with them, trying to connect past and today, tradition and contemporary era, peace and noise. Of course, I talk softly with honorable real world outside: Xu---keep quiet! (Mei Ruiting: about Shandong Qufu “Action Device” works and dialogue with Zheng Xuewu). If you can his “Century Text” device, then read these worlds, you can find an interesting question, Zheng Xuewu does not believe reliance between meaning of phrase and things. When he explains his works, in fact, there is no self-hiding and self misreading. It is because Zheng Xuewu puts rolled finished products onto ancient and modern altar, what he faces is submersion of non-rolling and closed papers. It is the same with Tiger in Cage which should have even open and dynamic treatment of desperation and hopeless. 

China Image in 2004 is the beginning of Zheng’s minimalism. He temporally leaves “Addition” that he is familiar. Here, his type of piling, complication, noise turns into “reduction” and “reduction again”, to single color and material. Besides China Image, this kind of art practice can also be seen collectively in Oriental Mirror serial from 2006 to 2007. Seen from now, Zheng Xuewu just selects “inscription”, “Buzi” and “landscape”. “Buzi”is picture sign that is embroidered or weaved by golden threads and color silks hanging on office uniforms. Because some coats have “Buzi” nail on the chest and back, thus it can be named as “Back Chest”. Buzi is both sign of position of sovereign and minister in Ming and Qing Dynasty, and signature of their hagiarchy. No matter it is scripture or Buzi, they are both signature of Chinese traditional authority. Meanwhile, scholar language of “Landscape” is another political ideology of Chinese tradition. If increase of “addition” is from not being to being, from old being to new being, “addition” thus disassembles political and cultural art pictures into single work, crossing, sun, moon, algae, water wave, tree, stone, flowers and etc. most original drawing elements. From many to one, from being to not being, “Reduction” is also a process of idea “Disenchantment”, and in the end all left is what so-called “China Image”, or secret of “Oriental Mirror”. By now, we vaguely get in touch with Zheng’s most pioneer irony feature in his art practice. No matter for our history or reality, he is a critical realist with world vision. 

I tend to describe modern China as “China Reform” activity. No matter big cities or small towns, culture or material, all evidence shows that present China is the most vast “construction land” in human history. What so-called modernization is just over-around China Reform” activity. What we do here is removing and relocation. As an artist, Zheng Xuewu contributes his efforts to China reform action. I, of course, describe his work as removing and relocation. But what I want to continue to ask is: when we fall all into ruins, where shall we locate our “China” and “Chinese heart”.

Born in Heilongjiang Province
1986 - 1990
Harbin Normal University, Arts College
1991 - 1992
Academy of Art and Design, Tsinghua University, Beijing

Visiting Professor, North Carolina University at Chapel Hill, USA.
Visiting Scholar, Guilford College, North Carolina (NC) 2006

Visiting Artist, Vermont Studio Center, USA.
Visiting Scholar, Warren Wilson College, USA.
Visiting Scholar, Appalachian State University, NC
Visiting Scholar, Guilford College, NC

Fulltime artist in Beijing

Solo Exhibitions

Red Mail Gallery, Vermont, USA.
BSC Gallery, Beijing

API Gallery, New York
Turchin Center, NC

Zheng Xuewu, Red Gate Gallery
Red Mail Gallery, Vermont
Hege - Cox Hall, Guilford College, NC

API Gallery, New York
ArtScene Gallery, New York
ArtScene China Gallery, Shanghai

Hanes Art Center, NC
Ackland Museum, NC
Jae Gil Art Museum, Gwangju, Korea
China’s Shapes, Red Gate Gallery
ArtScene China Gallery, Shanghai
10 Years of Zheng Xuewu’s Works, Beijing International Art Palace
Untitled – Untitled, Red Gate Gallery
New Works, Red Gate Gallery
Le Mistral Gallery, Hong Kong
New Paintings, Red Gate Gallery
Recent Monoprints, Red Gate Gallery
Red Gate Gallery
Harbin Normal University, Harbin
Small Works, Harbin Youth Hall

Group Exhibitions

Two Generations – 20 Years of Chinese Contemporary Art, 2012 Australian Tour: City of Sydney Chinese New Year; Manning Regional Gallery; Damien Minton Gallery; University of Newcastle Gallery; Melbourne International Fine Arts (MiFA); Linton & Kay, Perth
20 Years – Two Generations of Artists at Red Gate, island6 Art Center, Shanghai
20 Years – Two Generations of Artists at Red Gate, Red Gate Gallery
No Borders, Museum of Henan Province, Zhengzhou
4th Chinese Contemporary Printmaking Exhibition, Baiyaxuan Art Center, Shanghai
Time, 798space, Beijing
Cross space, Zibo University, Shandong
Century, Korea Culture Center, Beijing
Life, Sunshine International Art Museum, Beijing
Congregate-Songzhuang, BSC Gallery, Beijing
Zibo International Art Exhibition, Zibo Museum, Shandong
BIGsmall, Nunnery Gallery, London, UK
From Nature to Mind, Museum of Contemporary Art, Beijing
Pathway – State – Cleansing, BSC Gallery
Sanbao International Printmaking Exhibition, Jingdezhen, Jiangxi
Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Engraving Masterpieces, Beijing
Recombine, Red Gate Gallery
City, Tsinghua University, Beijing
Our Books,Our Lives, North Europe Center, Beijing
Chinese Contemporary Engravings, Nanjing Museum
The Power of Practice, 800Museum, Shanghai
Chinese Forms, White Space, Beijing
Power of Practice the 3rd Chinese Printworks Documents Exhibition, Nanjing Museum
Migration China and Korea Modern Art Exhibition, China Space, Beijing
3 Persons’ Different Perspectives in Modern Chinese Art, Nine Gallery, Korea
Dangcing with the Dragon, Turchin Center, USA
Red Gate Stars, Red Gate Gallery
Art Hampton, New York

China-Korea Exhibition, Arbazaar Art Museum, Busan, Korea
Chinese Character Biennale, HuanTie Art district, Beijing
2th China Printmaking Document, Nanjing Museum, Nanjing
China Scene, Galerie d’Art du Theatre d’Esch in Luxembourg
Different Perspectives, 798 Art District
Translucent Text, 798 Art District, Dashanzi International Art Festival, Beijing
Red Gate Gallery’s 15th Anniversary
Open Studio, Beijing International Art Camp
The National Art Museum’s Collections of Printmaking, National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), Beijing
Century of Chinese Characters, China Millennium Monument, Beijing
Impact 4 Printmaking, Kathe Kollwitz Museum, Berlin
Caravancafe(Strong), Espace d’art Contemporain, Antibes, France
21st South Korea International Exhibition, Gwangju Art Museum, Korea
Noah’s Ark, Tsinghua University, Beijing
Seven Pairs of Hands, Pickled Art Center, Beijing
Asia Contemporary Art, Gwangju Art Museum, Korea
Art Museum of Capital Normal University, Beijing

ArtScene China Warehouse, Shanghai
Art Chicago at Navy Pier, USA
Prayer Beads and Brush Strokes, Beijing Tokyo Art Project, Beijing
Kwangju Art Museum, Korea

Chinese Contemporary Art, Huston, USA
Dialogue with the Watchtower, Red Gate Gallery; Melbourne Art Fair;
Singapore Art fair; Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane

Art Alliance Center at Clear Lake, USA
Clues to the Future – Red Gate Gallery’s 10th Anniversary
Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, USA
Flat Surface, NAMOC
Retake: A Selection Reviewing Red Gate Artists’ Signature Works, Curated by Carolyn Fitzpatrick, Red Gate Gallery
Lucien Durand Gallery, Paris

Works Featured in the 1994 – 1998 BHP Calendars, Red Gate Gallery
Red Gate Gallery 5th Anniversary
Four Artists, Lucin Durand Gallery, Paris
NAMOC, Beijing
Four Artists, German Embassy, Beijing
1st Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Art, Jerusalem Museum, Israel
Five, People's University of China, Beijing
Ten, Qiqiha'r Gallery, Heilongjiang
Four, Harbin Youth Gallery, spacing Harbin


China Central Television, China Beijing Television, BBC


Gwangju Art Museum, Korea
Kaethe Kollwitz
Museum, Berlin
Australian Embassy, Beijing
Woo Jae
Gil Art Museum, Korea
Ackland Art Museum, USA
Guilford College
Turchin Center for Visual Arts
North Carolina University at Chapel Hill
Beijing International Art Palace
Private Collections

My goal is to take the treasures of the people in my left hand and the masters of yesterday in my right hand and to clasp them together. I then want to blend them to create the Zheng Xuewu of today.

Zheng Xuewu

10 am - 6 pm, Tuesday - Sunday
798 Art District,
No. 2 Jiuxianqiao Road,
Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
Beijing International Post Office
Box No. 9039,
Beijing, China 100600
(+86 10) 5762 3032
[email protected]
 WeChat QR

Follow Red Gate Gallery on Artsy