Stripped Realities by Wei Dong at Sotheby’s

Dance Lesson, 2013 (partial) (Photo: Sotheby's)
Exhibition view (Photo: Yannis Kostarias)
My Biology Teacher, 2012, Acrylic on canvas (Photo: Yannis Kostarias)
Dance Lesson, 2013 (Photo: Sotheby’s)
Fog No.1, 2008 (Photo: Sotheby’s)
Horseback Rider No.1, 2009 (Photo: Sotheby’s)
Interior Series No.1, 1999 (Photo: Sotheby’s)
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Crossroads: Wei Dong is a selling exhibition at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery from 29 July to 8 August, which explores Dong’s artistic spectrum over twenty artworks from 1996 and 2015. The collection also displays some new ink and colorful landscape scrolls which consist the beginning era of this Chinese artist. His creative style comes from the context of the Socialist Realism while basic themes of his art integrate Chinese and Western motifs. However, Wei Dong is not the only Chinese contemporary artist who copes with these art topics. Similarly, the artistic practice of Zhang Huan  and Ai Weiwei encompasses a provocative style around contemporary issues. Often their artwork engages with the current political, economical or cultural state in China,  therefore their art statement can be considered politically or aesthetically agitating.

Text: Yannis Kostarias

Exhbition View
Exhibition view (Photo: Yannis Kostarias)

While entering the Sotheby’s gallery, the Horseback Rider painting captures the visitor’s attention directly. An injured and naked woman riding her horse consists a pretty recent Dong’s canvas acrylic painting. As a visitor there, I had a clearer insight about this Chinese contemporary artist, while this collection includes a wide range of his art works. Woman-centered paintings, usually corpulent and naked female figures tortured or sexually manipulated by males entail some of the most remarkable artistic themes of Wei Dong. All of his works in this exhibition depict Asian women provocatively posed either in striptease sorts of school uniforms (The Biological Teacher, 2012), in semi naked laborer or military outfits (In the Clouds, 2000).

Dong, My Biology Teacher, 2012, Acrylic on cancas
My Biology Teacher, 2012, Acrylic on canvas (Photo: Yannis Kostarias)

At this level, there is an evident statement about how the social classes are mixed up, satirized and also sexualized in Wong’s paintings. Keeping an eye peeled in details, I was fascinated by the contradiction between the traditional landscapes and other characteristic representations of Asian figures as well as the provocative and sexually arousing characters in these paintings. Is it just about an infuriated slide glance ? It could be argued that Wei Dong’s artworks are more than aesthetically pleasant paintings around nudism and eroticism. Such themes around sex are apparent. However, these questions raised by Dong are related to moral and ethical issues in the Chinese society.

Dance Lesson, 2013
Dance Lesson, 2013 (Photo: Sotheby’s)

Wei Dong highlights his words that “I am trying to convey a deeper meaning by inviting viewers to think about the relationship between the figures and what they might be quietly conversing about. Instead of portraying angry, shouting figures, my approach is now more subtle and layered. The figures serve as a channel for me to say what I want to say – for me to express my sense of nostalgia for the past.”

Fog No.1, 2008
Fog No.1, 2008 (Photo: Sotheby’s)

Although, heritage and modernization concepts coexist in his art style, Dong sets up an open dialogue for a sociopolitical criticism. In this case, this unordinary juxtaposition of themes and cultural memories created a stimulating experience while the artist’s intention is to be wistful and progressive at the same time through his work.

Horseback Rider No.1, 2009
Horseback Rider No.1, 2009 (Photo: Sotheby’s)

Overall, this exhibition is challenging, sensual and thoughtful for the visitor. The artist invites us to consider both the kinds of the contradictory dualism between the traditional and modernized worlds he illustrates and the particular context in which he places his artworks. Although this display lasted only for a short period, this unique exhibition addresses the contemporary art lovers to discover Wei Dong’s paintings in Hong Kong where it denotes to cover the artist’s variable oeuvres on canvas that span the last two decades.

Crossroads: Wei Dong 29 Jul- 8 Aug 2015

Interior Series No.1, 1999
Interior Series No.1, 1999 (Photo: Sotheby’s)


Yannis Kostarias (IG: cos_y87) was born in Athens (Greece) and lives in London (UK). Graduate student at King’s College London on Arts & Cultural Management (MA) with diverse academic background in Political Sciences and Film Studies and work experience as an audio-visual expert in creative projects and scientific assistant in a European programme, as well as in managing workshops and campaigns, in freelance and corporate environments. Keen on contemporary art, film, photography and fashion.

 
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