Tragedy, cruelty, pain are the artistic motifs of 29-year-old Shi Weigeng. Since his graduation from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2009, Shi has devoted himself to exploring his inner world through gloomy, depressed oil paintings.

Shi calls himself a blue man– one who is always sentimental and uninterested. At first glance, his works look like nightmarish scenes from Hollywood thrillers. In one of his latest works, called Highway 105, a dead man in a suit lays on the floor while clutching a bunch of brushes. Beside his feet is a quote from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs Du Mal.

In Shi’s mind, art concerned with darkness is a powerful weapon to freely his express his own thinking.

“I paint people’s ‘lost’ mental status. I hope my audience can read the underlying meaning behind the darkness and harvest comfort from my works,” Shi said.

Shi’s father was an engineer in a factory. When he was young, he often saw his father working on mechanical blueprints. Those documents kindled Shi’s interest in painting, and then art.

Unlike many artists who clearly define their motif, Shi said his can hardly be expressed by language. He wants his works to faithfully represent his inner feelings of intense pressure, anxiety and turbulence.

By depicting dark motives, Shi hopes to tell public the spiritual truth of modern society.\

“I want my audience to discover a wasted spiritual world behind materialism and the hardship an individual might come across in life. It’s hard to summarize in a word,” Shi said.

The Ashes series is Shi’s biggest collection. In Ashes series, he blends his own thinking with childhood memories. The fusion is represented by the outdated furniture and architecture structure in the works. Shi said the tone comes from the time he spent in factory during childhood.

A repeating character in the series is a man with coat, hat and glasses, always standing in the distance and staring at viewer.

“The character is not based on anyone. If there is an appropriate ‘origin figure’ for him, it would be a ghost from the past. There are many people who die in the flow of history, including us. I call them ‘ashes burnt in history’s fire,’ which is also why I called the series ‘ashes,’” Shi said.

Shi said he hopes to lessen the emphasis on story-telling in his works. “It makes the audience too focused on the stories, not on the direct feeling the work inspires,” he said.

Shi said he plans to improve and add more works to Ashes and to experiment with woodcut prints.

Karena Hu

About Karena Hu

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Karena was born with the English name Karen but decided to add an “a.” She dreamed of a career in astronomy, but bad scores in physics kept her out of the science department. She seeks other worlds in reading and writing and is a super fan of the Hunger Games trilogy.

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