A letter from Wei Min Tang
CHINA • THE CREATIVE PROCESS BEHIND THE ARTIST'S PAINTINGS, IN HIS OWN WORDS
Wei Min writes about how he began painting, his muse, inspirations, and meaning of his art.
"Wei Min is my first name, Tang – family name.
In China we write family name, then given name. When I was three years old, I had been brought to my father’s home country, Yongzhou Hunan. I had a happy childhood playing with my sister and brother. When I was five, once, I visited my mother’s office where I saw one of her colleague drawing a pig on a piece of paper using a pen. The pig was so vivid that looked like a real one. I admired him very much. Then, I took out my pen and started my own drawing. It wasn’t very successful, but I continued and used to make sketches on blank margins of textbooks. Then I started to copy prints of Chinese painting. My mother’s colleague was drawing for fun. However, his drawing accidentally disturbed a naive child’s colorful heart. When I was in middle school I began to paint post office stamps. The stamps I created were so close to real ones that they often tricked my teachers and classmates. I once sent a mail using my painted stamp and was proud of my deed for several hours, until my mom found what I did. When I was 18 years old I passed national college admission exam and went to Art Department of Hunan Normal College, majored in oil painting. I started to read art books in the college. I learned the outline of the histories of Chinese and Western painting. I knew that painting was not only a skill and, moreover, was an expression of thought and spirit. Once, I visited the MaWangDui Museum in ChangSa, China. The museum collected arts uncovered from the tomb of a princess of West Han Dynasty. I saw a beautiful mummy quietly lay down in the coffin surrounding with countless treasury of god, silver, pears, silk, and art collection. I realized that no matter how rich, esteem and beautiful before her death she was just a mummy. Everything disappears with her death. Only the treasury she left is silently telling her story. When I overpass the time and space and face the precious treasury created by our ancestor artists, my heart deeply filled with my surprise and movement. I started to observe carefully the traditional culture and its vision art. I scored excellent in my test during my college study and left several art works in the collection of my university. After graduation I paved highway, taught middle school, and worked as a government employee. I was busy in making living and did not paint much. Fortunately I met a good girl, Yuping Wang, who became my wife later. At the end of 1993, after finishing a painting: “woman with traditional Chinese custom”, I opened an art class.
Yuping was introduced by one of her friend to my class to learn painting. She was quiet and always dedicated herself to painting. I felt I knew her but did not know where and when until one day I noticed that her hands were so similar to those in the painting “woman with traditional Chinese custom” that I realized she was the woman in my mind. I felt the affinity force from the other world and invited her to become my painting model. I painted “flower sacrifice” and “summer wind”, and repainted the “woman with traditional Chinese custom” based on her. Our love deepens with the time. Finally we got married. My wife always encourages and supports me in my painting. Although I did not paint many art works I did research of arts with a quiet heart. I seriously studied the Chinese vision arts, and carefully investigated many modern Western arts including pictures and text data. I respectfully studied oriental wisdom and touched Confucius, Buddhism, and Taoism. Occasionally, I understood some of them and felt very happy. There is a river named Xiaoshui flowing through our hometown. In the summer my wife and I often wonder in the riverside. Sometimes we saw people find some precious old coins and vessels from the river while they were swimming. More often people picked up waste copper and iron plates from the close-by residents and manufacture. Thinking that these treasury and waste all quietly sleep on the bed of the river covered with mud and sand without sadness or happiness and living or death. I felt a breeze of Zen flowing in my heart.
With the support of my wife I resigned my job and became a career painter in 2000. I went to study painting further for a year in Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and one of my artwork had won Second of “Charles B. Wang Scholarship at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts”. I gradually accumulated my thought and abstracted several basic elements from Chinese philosophy and Buddhism. I melted these elements with Western culture to generate some symbols to express my thought and try to build my own heaven among the easy rotten material world and limited space. I realize more and more clearly that my art should express the thought soaked with Orientals’ blood. These may be the value and meaning of my art: life filled with quietness and wisdom. Among many painters I like Magritte from Belgium because heart likes unknown in the view of Magritte. Heart likes symbols with implication unknown to human. The meaning of heart is unknown. Magritte quietly works on his canvas and creates puzzling vision pictures one after another. When people are surprising at his painting I believe that he must be smiling secretly in a hidden place like a wise magician. I also like Dali. Dali express very freely in the shape and color. He created many classic imagination. He is a strange genius.