Letters From A Distance - Artist Statement

Peng Wei

       In the summer of 2002, I was feverishly painting shoes. One dazzlingly sunny afternoon, I ran into Li Songsong at the Tianjiehu intersection. I immediately took out pictures of my painting from my backpack for him to view. As he leafed through them, he said, “You know, Andy Warhol also painted a lot of shoes.”  “Really?”’ This was a bolt from the blue; I rushed home, not really remembering what he had said to me, but I wanted to find Andy Warhol’s shoes, they were illustrations for fashion magazine. He asked his teacher when he could really start making art, and his teacher said, “Your paintings are art!”

       Whether stones, shoes, clothing, bodies, or landscapes I have always painted things that other people before me have painted. Originally, I thought that these were unique discoveries, and later I saw or learned that these materials had been painted before. When I saw others’ artworks, I discovered that other people are other people, and I am me.

       As a result, I ceased to care about other people and immersed myself in my passion slowly subsided. Then I found a new fascination and new beginning. Art is not invention, and nothing is an original creation. Every work appears utterly unique because it comes from the artist’s sincere heart, and everyone’s heart is different. Thus, even though the theme is the same, knowing who painted it is extremely important.

       Chinese people have painted landscape for more than one thousand years, but when I was captivated with painting landscapes, I completely forgot the ancients. I did not admire the spiritual code of ancient landscapes or the inky aesthetics of certain schools. I was enamored with both classic landscape painting and albums and scrolls as objects. In addition to the cultural and historical charms of albums and scrolls, they are more like elegant little installations in my eyes. They entice me to decorate every part of them by myself, including replicating complicated brocade patterns. At the beginning and end, I copied dense and interesting texts, often the letters, diaries, or poetry of Western writers. Then, I fold or roll these pieces, carefully wrapping them with silk ribbon and encasing them in custom wooden boxes. I then select a playful title, as if I am sending a long letter written to some preordained person I do not know.

       How would Andy Warhol see the shoes I have painted? He certainly would not care that I am doing what he had done, but it would be fun! Different times, places, people, and ideas change that same theme. They see and meet each other, inspiring each other at the same time.

April 30, 2012, Beijing