Wei Ligang is a pioneer of contemporary Chinese calligraphy. Originally trained as a mathematician, he combines spontaneity with logic drawing on both the traditions of traditional calligraphy and also modern media.Read More
Born in 1964 in Datong, northern Shanxi Province, Wei Ligang developed a passion for art as a child when his father, a railroad worker, taught him about Chinese opera and painting. Wei began to study mathematics in Nankai University in Tianjin when he was 17, while learning Chinese calligraphy from renowned Tianjin-based calligraphers such as Li Henian, Wang Xuezhong, and Sun Boxiang. After his graduation in 1985, while pursuing a career as a mathematics teacher Wei began to study the traditional cursive calligraphic style of Fu Shan, an influential calligrapher from the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties.
In 1995, Wei Ligang settled in the artist village of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing as a professional artist and founded Song Feng Xuan Gallery, one of the pioneering galleries to feature modern calligraphy. At that time, his focus had shifted from traditional calligraphy to modern calligraphy and abstract painting.
In his interview with curator Alan Yeung, Wei Ligang attributed his change in artistic practice to an urge to break down boundaries. His frustration with the abstruse curves of traditional calligraphy prompted him to venture into its modern form. He described: ‘Then the boundaries disappeared: there was calligraphy, both traditional and modern, and there was abstraction. Everything was mixed together. Only then could truly new things arise. To create is to find one’s own form of art.’
In his pursuit for an unique art form, Wei Ligang created the iconic conceptual system ‘Wei square’, where individual Chinese characters were deconstructed and reconstructed within the boundaries of a square or a circle. As a result, traditional Chinese characters were distorted and made abstract, different versions of the same character being created, as if to invent new characters. This sense of abstraction is found in An Auspicious Bird Flying above the Golden Palace (2012).
Wei Ligang is also a pioneer in employing acrylics along with Chinese ink. In Mid-Summer Pavilion (2019), he demonstrates his mastery at applying contemporary painting media to traditional ink painting techniques and exploiting tactile surfaces.
Selected exhibitions featuring Wei Ligang include Wei Ligang: Universality, Zhi Art Museum, Chengdu (2019) Wei’s Ink Garden, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong (2015); The Orchid Pavilion: The Art of Writing in China, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels (2009); and Zhi Kan: Wei Ligang’s Calligraphic Art Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2007). His work can be found in notable public collections such as those of the British Museum, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the National Art Museum of China, Beijing.
Biography by Chelsea Ma | Ocula | 2020
Over three decades, Wei Ligang has dedicated himself to revolutionising calligraphic script, upending an ancient tradition to create new forms of expression. A selection of the artist's recent paintings are now on view at Alisan Fine Arts in Hong Kong.