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 Cheng Weijian  (1955 - )

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Lived/Active: China      Known for: portrait; still life

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Ad Code: 4
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from Auction House Records.
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Biography from Verna Glancy Fine Art:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Cheng Weijian "My best memory from childhood involves my out-of-town cousin who came to visit me when I was very young," recalls 50-year-old painter Cheng Weijian, who was born in 1955 in Huanining in the southeastern Chinese province of Anhui.  "My cousin brought me some brushes and paints as a gift and I still remember the great excitement these things created in me, even at that age."  Cheng Weijian's abiding love for painting predated even his cousin's visit. 

Beginning school at the age of 5, the artist quickly astounded his teachers with his prodigious artistic skills, winning prizes for his artistry early on.  At 14, he began the serious study of Western-style oil painting, which was just then achieving unprecedented attention in mainland China following the restrictive period of the Cultural Revolution.  Over the years, Cheng's masterful still lifes and, more recently, his figurative portraits, which deftly fuse European Rennaisance painting techniques and styles with classical Chinese subject matter, have been included in major mainland Chinese exhibitions, as well as exhibitions in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Britain and California.

In addition, the artist has taken his niece, painter Zhou Fang, under his tutelage, with both working in the same studio on a daily basis.  Harnessing the painting techniques of these Western masters, especially their layering of semi-translucent glazes, Cheng Weijian creates luminous still lifes that are quintessentially Chinese.  While reminiscent of old European precedents, Cheng's still life studies such as Season, Plenteous Harvest and Oranges feature rustic Chinese market pottery and intricately decorated Ming and Qing porcelains and celadon instead of pewter tankards, glass goblets and hanging meat; peonies in place of tulips; and exotic fruit and vegetables such as starfruit, persimmons, peppers, squash and gourds rather than old world botanical specimens of carrots, onions and turnips.

Of late, Cheng has produced haunting portraiture that may be Western in style, but depicts the primordially Asian, both of which coalesce to reflect his personal interest in dance, music and literature.  In an ongoing series of work, the artist has immortalized Sun Fanru, a demure 19-year-old dancer who appears in traditional silk cheongsam.  In Girl in Red, the model's dreamy stare is partially shrouded in shadow, her body curved like a willow gently bent by the wind, her arm gracefully draped on an old wooden chair back while her long, elegant fingers rest on a handpainted paper fan.  Spending up to 60 full days to create one portrait, Cheng personally finds painting them much more challenging than his intricate still lifes. "For me, these portraits are more difficult than painting the still lifes," says Cheng, "though when I paint for myself I will paint portraits and landscapes."

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