WJ Su,      The Witch Hunter’s Dilemma, 2018          Oil on canvas   162x130cm  

When Cultures and Histories Collide

By John Seed (Art Professor and Critic)

An elegant and perplexing painting, The Witch Hunter’s Dilemma by WJ Su depicts figures from Eastern and Western cultures meeting in an imaginative scenario. The female figure—a sensuous nude who reaches back to raise a tress of dark hair—is taken from Nude Before a Mirror by Balthus, a Western modernist known for his sophisticated eroticism. The man she faces is Zhong Kui, a legendary figure from the East: a Daoism hunter of spirits, ghosts, and witches. Su, who is well-versed in the art of both cultures, has brought them together to generate questions and make those questions come alive in a contemporary context.

 

In WJ Su’s painting Zhong Kui is no longer a demon hunter but instead plays the role of a policeman or detective. The young woman he encounters activates him with her nudity and vulnerability. Zhong Kui pulls back his sword—and restrains his tiger—while he considers his options. What the artist has done is to locate the deeper, meanings of each figure in order to create a form of mythological narrative that can be applied to the moment we live in. The dilemma faced by Zhong Kui is like those that police in China and Hong Kong face when they face disruption in the streets. Should police in these situations be loyal to power or to protest? Are the young people they meet in the streets to be respected or arrested? Can vulnerability and innocence serve as shields from authority?

 

Combining myths and images and making them relevant again—across time and culture—is an exercise that has occupied Su for nearly a decade. He sees art as a kind of safe space to search for the questions and quandaries that underlie the grand forces at work in the world today. Although Su and his art don’t easily fit into any single category, he is best described as a Postmodern Surrealist, since his art appropriates existing imagery into dreamlike and imaginative narratives. 

 

The Witch Hunter’s Dilemma is from an ongoing series of over 100 canvases that Su calls Déjà Vu, a reference to the French phrase that translates literally to “already seen.” The titles many of the works in this series—such as Sins of the Father, Big Brother Sees All, and The Ruling Elite: Parasites—make it clear that WJ Su is also a social critic who goes beyond simply raising questions. He is also a moralist who does not hesitate to judge or criticize.

 

WJ Su,     Girl and Rabbit, 2014          Oil on canvas   162x130cm  

The love of the weak

By Shandong University, Professor Liu Ling

When you appreciate each painting in the exhibition, do you leave some taste or reverie? Yes, sometimes the artistic beauty is really indescribable. As soon as I came into contact with the picture of "A White Rabbit", I was shocked and moved inexplicably. Why? do not know. Later, I thought, maybe it is because human beings have sympathy for the weak or touched some kind of childhood memory of me, or it is related to the rabbit zodiac, or something else. Of course, it's just "or", just a guess.

Yes, I was indeed moved by the two lively and real lives in the center of the picture. It is true that such a scene does not necessarily exist objectively; it is a creative imagination of the artist. However, the existence of a large number of poor village girls and the difficult situation of hares in winter make this fiction not to violate the reality of life, or more in line with the reality of art. I guess that the author may have a certain rural life experience in order to empathize and reflect such subjects in a true and sincere manner. I only tried to understand and understand it slowly after intuitively loving it, and grasp it rationally.

Please forgive me for my preference for Mr. WJ Su's paintings; after all, there is an "interesting and non-controversial" aspect of appreciation. All art appreciation is a kind of spiritual adventure, which may be in the dark, it may be nothing, or even go astray. What's more, the clumsy discussion has exceeded the ability of my "ordinary" admirer. Therefore, there must be a lot of ambiguity and abruptness in the above feelings;

 

© 2020 by WJ Su