Imitation Warmth and Cold Pleasures
Luo Wei Dong is the eldest of three siblings who work collaboratively as the Luo Brothers. They produce carnivalesque lacquer paintings and ink wash scrolls that reflect the disorientating reality of contemporary Chinese society.
A Coca Cola sun radiates its imitation yellow-red warmth from behind a faded Forbidden Palace; Chairman Mao swims in blue waters towards Coca Cola buoy; a row of white puppy dogs poke rubescent tongues at oversized Coca Cola cans, on which a baby, afflicted with uncertain pink white blisters, climbs and cries.
Born in 1963, Luo Wei Dong is the eldest of three brothers in his family who have become artists. Although he and his brothers Luo Wei Guo and Luo Wei Bing all trained in different academies (respectively, Guangxi Academy of Art, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art and Central Academy of Art and Design in Beijing) they began collaborating together in 1986 when they all moved to Beijing to live.
As the names Luo Wei Dong, Wei Guo and Wei Bing – ‘defenders’ respectively of the ‘East’, the ‘country’ and the ‘body’ – might suggest, the Luo brothers were born around the time of the Cultural Revolution in China, when political fervour still fuelled the hearts and minds of many people. Decades later and with its opening to the west, China now finds itself helter skeltering into a rapid economic development and modernisation. The effect is disorientating. Ideological idolatry is replaced by a worship of consumer goods. On the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on 1st October, the streets now boast more Coca Cola advertisements than red national flags.
It is this new reality that forms the basis of the exuberant, fantastical, dazzling world captured in the Luo Brothers’ works, such as the series, ‘The Famous Brands of the World are Welcomed’ (2002). Densely packed with an unruly mix of symbols, iconic images leap across time as the Luos amass together within a single space the visual vocabularies of the traditional, the revolutionary and the consumer. Impossible juxtapositions are made possible as notions of scale and perspective are gleefully dismissed. A blank red sun shines out again from behind a Forbidden Palace now wreathed in artificial blooms and hovering above a row of Coca Cola locomotives; cutesy cherubs giggle and pose on perfect bouncy golden hamburgers; two hold up a gilded mirror which endlessly reflects the same sun, the same picture, the same synthetic yellow red warmth.
Do these carnivalesque scenes proclaim the triumph of a global consumer culture? Are modernisation and commodification inescapably linked? In works such as these the Luos may prompt serious thought upon social change and development yet the horror of the spiritual emptiness of contemporary consumerism is rendered all the time with an engagingly boisterous energy. Global brands usurp the power over the collective imagination once held by slogans of political propaganda. Materialism supersedes ideals.
It might seem ironic then that to capture the glittering present, the Luo Brothers return to the past, employing two very traditional Chinese media across their repertoire: lacquer paint and ink-on-paper. The deeply saturated hues of lacquer paint, usually associated with decorative arts as opposed to fine art, creates an impenetrable gloss that completes the sheen of the material world depicted. The ink washes meanwhile are rendered in a hanging scroll format that at once recalls and parodies the tradition of classical Chinese painting.
Authorial red seal impressions, a longstanding convention of literati works, appear here and there but are unconventionally placed, sometimes even at the centre of the picture plane.
With their obsessive attention to detail and craftsmanship, at odds with the banality of the objects they depict, the Luo Brothers powerfully convey the dizzying disorientation, the joy and the emptiness that characterises postmodern experience in societies across the world today.
The Luo Brothers have had solo shows in Paris, Sydney and Hong Kong and have participated in many significant international group shows at venues in the UK, Australia, Brazil, USA, France, Switzerland and China. In 2002, they were invited by the Red Mansion Foundation to participate in the exhibition ‘Dream 02’, supported by Visiting Arts, which brought together the works of 24 artists from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Sources include: ´Dream 02´ catalogue, Red Mansion Foundation, London, 2002
Luo Wei Dong was born in 1963 in Nanning in the southern province of Guangxi, China. He graduated from the Guangxi Academy of Art in 1987. He works in collaboration with his two younger brothers, Luo Wei Guo and Luo Wei Bing. They live and work together in Beijing.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Exhibition / Installation,
2002 ‘Dream 02’, The Red Mansion Foundation, and the Bargehouse, London, UK
2002 ‘Art Basel’, Basel, Switzerland
2002 ‘Melbourne Art Fair’, Melbourne, Australia
2002 ‘Let’s Go! Chinese Contemporary Artists with World Cup Football’, China Millennium Monument, Beijing, China
2002 ‘China Contemporary Art Exhibition’, Sao Paulo, Brazil
2002 ‘Chicago Art Fair’, Chicago, USA
2001 ‘Un Art Populaire’, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris, France
2001 ‘The Asia New Art Exhibition’, Galerie Loft, Paris, France
2001 ‘The 1st Cheng Du Biennale’, Cheng Du Museum of Modern Art Cheng Du
2000 ‘Sydney Art Biennial’, Sydney, Australia
2000 ‘New Face of China’, Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, Melbourne, Australia
1999 Fukuoka Art Museum collection, Fukuoka, Japan
1999 ‘San Francisco Modern Art Museum exhibition and collection’, San Francisco, USA
1999 ‘New York Time Millennium Exhibition’, New York, USA
1998 ‘24th Sao Paulo International Biennial’, Sao Paulo, Brazil
1998 ‘4696/1998: Contemporary Art from China’, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, Art Beatus Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia
Exhibition / Installation,
2002 ‘Luo Brothers: Scrolls and Lacquers’, Galerie Loft, Paris, France
2002 ‘Luo Brothers’, Sydney, Australia
2002 ‘Luo Brothers’, Paris, France
2001 ‘The Luo Brothers Lacquer Painting Exhibition’, Art Beatus Gallery, Hong Kong