Guest | Buwei Hu
Interviewer | Xiaoying
Translator | Lingyun
The posture of cats and people is the way my paintings talk and the place their inner spirit lies. I use a camera or sketch to capture this kind of image from life, break the order, and refine the elements in the image into semi-abstract symbols before exploring the space and logic different from reality.
Most real-life scenarios I encounter are dull and mundane. Only during travel can I occasionally see particularly impressive colors and shapes, so I use contrasting colors in my paintings to present thrill and provocation to the audience with me being the very first one. Yet a more profound confrontation calls for more subjective rendering other than pure contrasts in colors. There should be harmony within confrontation, and conflicts within peace.
In today's ever-changing modern society, the emergence of social media, artificial intelligence, and global Internet connectivity brings about a broader concept of intimacy and its re-definition. From the general categories of family, marriage, love, or pet cats and dogs, to the common memory of ethnic communities and urban public spaces, intimacy is no longer just an individual's subjective experience in the private domain but also touches upon the relationship between the individual, society, and even globalization.
Intimacy is not only the private interpersonal relationships but the sum of relationships that make up our thoughts, emotions, bodies, and existence. Through observation and capture of everyday life elements, the artist, Buwei, deconstructs and reconstructs elements such as partners, friends, pet cats, and the environment in a semi-abstract way on the canvas, creating an emotional space for the artist's inner life to continue. In the artist's long-term series of works "Cats", he symbolizes the universality of intimacy between pets and humans, where the colorful and varying shapes of cats become a unique visual language of his own.
So far, since the appearance and development of portrait and self-portrait, artists have explored the vision and boundary of intimate relationships from all dimensions. At the end of the 19th century, with an interest in subjectivity and the desire to capture fleeting moments, impressionist painters depicted scenes of daily life in the secular world, usually about family, friends, and lovers, who read books by the window, sit in cafes or have a picnic in the suburbs. Since the mid-20th century, contemporary artists have tried to share and reconstruct the narrative of intimate relations in their works to describe the fluidity and diversity within. Hockney always favors depicting his love in works, whether it's homosexuals, parents, close friends, or the endless sunshine and seawater in California.
Pierre Bonnard, Woman with a Cat, 1912
Pierre Bonnard, Woman with a Cat, 1912
As for Buwei, artistic creation is spontaneous and pure with painting itself as the ultimate goal. Based on its extremely personalized visual language, his new expressionist oil painting fall in between concreteness and abstraction. In the process, the artist fully embodies the tactile sensation of painting and enjoys the traces and materiality left by pigments and brushstrokes on the surface of the canvas. The piled-up blocks of color and rapid brushstrokes in the "Pose" and "Portrait" series make the figures in the paintings blurred entities, making it impossible to discern their dressing styles and facial expressions, or whether they are lost in contemplation or a daydream. These strange and innovative images reveal an individual’s inner self. While referring to the intimately related subjects in daily narratives, the artist explores and extends the scale of intimacy as well.
Portrait No.6, 2022，70x50cm
His highly individualistic paintings come from ordinary life. Based on the traces of life and personal memories, he pursues the essence of painting and the continuum between the materiality of the brushstroke and the world depicted through a variety of lines and a splash of contrasting colors. With the basic links between people and daily life unfolding, the artist is not necessarily the revealer of heroic figures or social truths, but the carrier of some collective consensus and the explorer of the neglected aesthetics hidden in a humdrum life.
🙋🏻: "Pose", "Cats" and "Portraits" are all about the intimate relationships around you. When did you begin to work on the ephemeral moments of everyday life? Is there any turning point or special experience?
🧑🏻🎨: The intimate relationship centering on myself is the source of my inspiration. My partner, friends, pets, and environment are the essentials of my life. Ever since I learned painting, I have been collecting my daily life bit by bit by sketching. Then I used sketching and photos taken by myself as references to create oil paintings. Those images in my life have made their way into my painting, and my painting is my life.
🙋🏻: Who is your favorite artist? Which art movement or art theory has influenced you the most?
🧑🏻🎨: I have a partiality for painters who focus on the sense of painting, and I admire different painters in different periods, such as Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz, Susan Rothenberg, Harold Ancart, Chunya Zhou, Nathaniel Mary Quinn and so on, In 2020, I saw the works of Susan Rothenberg, whose freehand painting expression and small indulgent brushstrokes had greatly shaped mine. She is an American painter, good at using abrupt and rhythmic brushstrokes to paint silhouetted images. Her abstract and expressive work has freed my mind in a way.
Susan Rothenberg, Cabin Fever, 1976
Georg Baselitz, The Big Night Down the Drain, 1962-3
Francis Bacon, Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror, 1968
🙋🏻: The bold use of color, especially complementary colors like the clash of red and green is often seen in your work. Why do you have a preference for such a strong visual style of color?
🧑🏻🎨: Before I went to America, I was mainly influenced by modernism, with gray tones...The encounter with more contemporary paintings made me visually bored with the low saturation colors, so gradually I started to adopt colors with conflict, such as red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple, to give the audience a strong visual impact. Besides, there are barely any breathtaking scenes in our daily life except the stunning natural landscapes and colors during our trip, such as the giant firs of Sequoia National Park in California, or the alien landscape colors and geological formations in Canyonlands National Park. The process of seeking one's own artistic language takes time. I hope to place the impact and morphological power of subjective color in my work to spur on my own eyes as well as those of the audience.
🙋🏻: Do you give each color a specific meaning in your work? For example, in the traditional interpretation of modern art, blue represents melancholy.
🧑🏻🎨: Often, the choice of colors in my work is spontaneous based on my state of mind and emotions at the moment. Everyone feels differently about different colors, and blue does not necessarily mean melancholy or sadness.
🙋🏻: In the series "Cats", you depict the existence of cats in different daily environments in a semi-abstract form, are they all your cats? Can you introduce them to us?
🧑🏻🎨: I have had several cats, and the one currently with me is a Chinese Rural Cat. I raised my first cat in my junior year of college in 2018. Since then, cats have become part of my paintings. The use of cats as the main subject of oil painting began in the summer of 2020. The two cats that appear in the work permanently were living with me while I was studying in the United States, a mixed Russian Blue and a Scottish Fold. They were both adopted by friends in the U.S. before I returned to China given the difficulty to bring them back during the epidemic.
🙋🏻: There is a sense of Transiency and movement in cats in your works just like the concept of "cats as fluids". What do you think? Do you intend to record the quirks of cats in your work?
🧑🏻🎨: The Transiency and movement in the oil paintings come from the dynamics I capture via my sketches and my movement when I paint. Living with cats and enjoying observing them, I can’t be more familiar with their characteristics and behavior. They are the energy that flows.
🙋🏻: Cats have been one of the main elements in your art practice since your early works. What do cats represent to you? Or can we say the cats you depict also represent yourself?
🧑🏻🎨: Everything in an artisctic creation origins from the artists themselves. I am closely co-related to the subjects in my paintings. Cats are a part of my life and I see them as a way of self-extension. The image of the cat carries the language and inner spirit of my painting.