Wu Jian'an Biography

Beijing-based artist and academic, Wu Jian'an's works are based on the traditional Chinese medium of paper cut—whereby he extends tradition into contemporary Chinese art. Elaborating and expanding on the 1500-year-old technique, his practice explores iconography from various sources around the world. With these the artist produces increasingly complex compositions and installations that incorporate many individual works together.

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Wu's interest in the paper-cut medium began when he started to make simple paper cut patterns to relieve the depression, isolation and fear felt, when he confined himself indoors during the height of the SARS epidemic in 2003. The series of works he created in this time, expressing in various forms his inner thoughts and feelings about the seemingly unstoppable disease, became the basis for his first solo exhibition Day Dreams (2006, Chambers Fine Art).

Since then Wu has continued to push the expressive possibilities of the medium further. Drawing from Chinese traditions and mythology for symbolic motifs followed by broader global references, the artist works have become increasingly complex; growing in their diversity of mythological and esoteric motifs, as well as diversifying in terms of materials and techniques. The artist has experimented with laser-cutting steel, dyes, and ink painting.

The exhibition, Ten Thousand Things: New Works by Wu Jian'an (2016, Chambers Fine Art) showcases the diversity of the artist's chosen subjects and methods. It featured compositions mimicking the shapes of animals and humans comprised of thousands of smaller papercut figures; arrangements of over a thousand hand-crafted and engraved terracotta bricks imprinted with ink; assemblages of individually painted conch shells, and, as seen in the '500 Brushstrokes' series (2016-ongoing), ink painting on paper –albeit, the individual brush strokes are cut out and reassembled in collage. The artist has increasingly focused on the use of colours and unconventional materials in his work leading into 2018 and 2019.

Graduating from the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing (where he studied in the department of Folk Art) with a Master of Arts in 2005, following his first solo exhibition at Chambers Fine Arts Wu's work has featured in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and art shows across China, in Japan, Korea, Singapore, the United States, Britain, and Europe. His works also features in several prominent public collections including, the National Art Museum of China, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA. Alongside his continually developing practice, Wu is an Associate Professor of School of Experimental Art of Central Academy of Fine Art.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2019

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