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Painting Nostalgia

卓晖Zhuo Hui 2017-07-20 10:13

It is for the enchanting elements of Shanghai that gave it the nickname of “magic city”. While the Huangpu River geographically separates Lujiazui and the Bund, it also represents a symbolic divide of old and new Shanghai. When it comes to old Shanghai, we often associate it with the image of a prosperous metropolis, replete with splendid architec- ture, narrow twisting lanes, and classic Shikumen. Now take a look at Wang's pen drawings to discover the nostalgia of old-Shanghai. The artist Wang Weimin is Shanghainese born and bred. He worked as a furniture designer, interior design- er and art teacher. With forty-year experience under his belt, he has accomplished a myriad of achievements; during his 8 years of study, he completed Chinese Soft Loading Design and established the education system of Chinese soft loading design as a craftsman; by the end of 2016, he conceived an album of Picturing Old-day Shanghai when attending the Shanghai Cultural Development Seminar, only to save the memory of old Shanghai and retain his deeply personal nostalgia.


VANTAGE: What does the show “Wang Weimin’s Pen Painting Art Exhibition” in Fengxian district’s Zhuanghang Town mean to you?

WANG: This is my rst exhibition in a 40-year art ca- reer. The main purpose of exhibition is to display part of more than 50 pieces of pen illustrations for Chinese Soft Loading Design (Tongji University Press), and the recent 10-piece pen comics Xiaoming Celebrates With The Disneyland Park. In a way, this exhibition is a peri- odical summary for me.

VANTAGE: What is ‘nostalgia’? And specifically, what is an artist's ‘nostalgia’?

WANG: Nostalgia is your love for hometown and how you miss it terribly. Attachment to a hometown is a common and eternal feeling for human beings. Those wanderers, vagabonds, and immigrants far away from their hometown all miss it badly, don’t they? Nostalgia is a common topic in literature; you can feel it strongly in poems of Yu Guangzhong, Bei Shi, and Xi Murong, in the articles of Sanmao; you can feel it in the chords of pianist Richard Clayderman and even see it in the names of movies. The lines of nostalgia are here and there, among which the most classic is Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai's “Moonlight shed over the bed, like hoary frost on the oor. Look up to the moon, then think of the hometown with head down”.

What is nostalgia? Nostalgia is actually a cultural com- plex of yearning for the past, linked with personal life experience, living status, ages, and cultural backgrounds. General Secretary Xi said that nostalgia is how you miss the place when you leave it. Yu's nostalgia was a small stamp in the childhood, a narrow ticket when growing up, and a shallow strait now. For many people, nostalgia can be every tree and bush of hometown, a certain familiar custom or the taste of a kind of snacks. It sometimes exists in a form of solid substances, and pass down through an intangible way.


VANTAGE: What inspires you to create Picturing Old-day Shanghai?

WANG: On December 15, 2016, I participated in the Shanghai Cultural Development Seminar held by Shang- hai Academy of Development & Reform, where Jing Dong, the vice dean of Shanghai Fudan planning and architectural design and Huang Changyong, the dean of Shanghai Theater Academy jointly put forward a ‘nostal- gia’ proposition. They believed that as an international metropolis, Shanghai was in need of a major cultural project comparable to Britain and other European coun- tries - ‘urban nostalgia’. After the seminar, Zhang Dejun, the executive vice president of Shanghai branch of People Art Gallery and Wang Yiming, the host, and I reached a consensus, “nostalgia is the future trend of cultural development.” That day, my younger brother Wang Weiguo, Wang Yiming and I discussed far into night and started to work on Picturing Old-day Shanghai. We wanted to show the buildings, details, and cultural histo- ry in a format akin to chatting through paper pen paint- ings and online videos. We planned to retain the history of those ancient buildings via pen illustration, retain the memories, express our emotion and pass it on. Therefore, Picturing Old-day Shanghai exactly matches the theme of Shanghai Cultural Development Seminar.


VANTAGE: There are a lot about architecture in old-day Shanghai in your works, do you have a special feeling for old-day Shanghai? 

WANG: I was born in Shanghai, and heard a lot of stories about old-day Shanghai when I was a child; at that time, I often dreamed that I could paint them with a brush one day. Now as middle-age man, such child- hood dream and desire are strengthened as time passes; especially as an artist, I desperately hope to express how I feel about the cultural his- torical evolution of Shanghai in the century through pen illustrations. Nowadays, people rely on a keyboard to type and on computer soft- ware to paint. Traditional pen writing is completely out-of-date, let alone pen illustration. To inherit traditional culture of pen writing and painting, I will use the pen to paint old-day Shanghai in a unique view, like old villas and old roads, which is a major aspiration of mine. Therefore, I consulted with Wang Yiming, the producer, reporter and host of Eastday.com and Han Shanmin, the vice dean of Shanghai Research Institute of Architectural Design and my brother Wang Wei, along with the support of Zhang Dejun, the chairman of Shanghai Weimi Commerce Co.. I hope to express, inherit and retain the spirits, elements and cultural history of those old architectures with a century of history through pen illustrations and thankfully, I’m backed up by many people.

I will start from the exterior of buildings and then explore further into the inside humanities and history. In conclusion, I hope these illustra- tions would work as a live history of old-day Shanghai to inspire the next generation and be passed down as “pen illustrations of old-day Shanghai”.


VANTAGE: Your experience is very complicated, but also very inspi- rational.

WANG: Yes. I studied oil paintings from Fang Shicong, a famous Chi- nese painter in France, and Min Xiwen, the late famous second gener- ation of Chinese painters from the beginning of 1990s. I reached some achievements before and once worked on interior designs, furniture designs and training. “The aroma of plum flowers often comes after a severe winter”, so pain always pays off in the end. In forty years, I have been engaged in the business of beauty, which start from the very beginning till now; I started to study and write Chinese Soft Loading Design eight years ago, which is attributed to the ingenuity, a sense of responsibility for the admiration of Chinese culture, designers in this eld and the youths. Now I’m working on Picturing Old-day Shanghai.

VANTAGE: Which one do you prefer to be labelled as, the founder of “Chinese Soft Loading Design” , a painter, an artist, a teacher, a technician or a furniture designer?

WANG: The watcher of nostalgia culture, a Shanghainese who express- es nostalgia through a pen.

VANTAGE: What do you have planned for the next stage?

WANG: Choosing the topic, going on tours and working on creations. I truly hope to complete the album of Picturing Old-day Shanghai as soon as possible so that it will be launched in August at the National Book Fair.


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