On April 9, 2016, Social Encyclopedia – An Exhibition of Wei Qimei’s Cartoons opened at CAFA Art Museum, to present the cartoonist Wei Qimei rather than the oil painter. The exhibition is organized by CAFA, jointly undertaken by CAFA Art Museum, Institute of Arts Administration and Education at CAFA, Retirement Affairs Office, and it is curated by the Dean of the Institute of Arts Administration and Education at CAFA Yu Ding, to feature 823 cartoons covering manuscripts and the printed cartoons and the subjects involved in the political economy, international relations, daily life, social morality, etc., which is a schema of “social encyclopedia”.
Wei Qimei is an important painter, cartoonist and art educator in the art history of modern China. The exhibition of cartoons receives great attention fro all art circles, President of CAFA Fan Di’an, the Deputy Directors of the National Art Museum of China Hu Wei and An Yuanyuan, the exhibition curator, Dean of the Institute of Arts Administration and Education at CAFA Yu Ding, the older professors from CAFA Hou Yimin, Dai Ze, Du Jian, Wen Lipeng, Pan Shixun, Ma Changli, Weng Naiqiang, Shao Dazhen, Li Shusheng, Yuan Baolin, etc., attended the opening ceremony of the exhibition. Director of CAFA Art Museum, Wang Huangsheng, hosted the opening ceremony of the exhibition.
President of CAFA Fan Di’an addressed the opening ceremony and praised the artist Prof. Wei Qimei who had made contributions to the art developments in China. As an art educator, he had been teaching in the academy from the period of the National Beiping Art School to the period of CAFA, donating all his talent and passions to art education; on the other hand, he was a versatile painter within the older generation of artists, a show of drawing was held a few years ago, and this exhibition collectively showcased the cartoon creations. The older professor from CAFA Hou Yimin was Wei Qimei’s colleague, and they had worked together in the academy for more than 60 years, Hou Yimin said that Wei Qimei was never flamboyant, but a wise and sensible man, he was both skillful in creation and good at thinking, insisting on the teaching of the freshmen, grasping the first bite of the enthusiasm of the students. Hou Yimin also pointed out the problem within the cartoon industry in China, cartoons had faded out of our lives and they are missing a shocking and inspiring voice, he hoped the whole animation industry could learn from this cartoonist of the older generation, capable of undertaking the responsibility of the correct publicity and education.
Since the first caricature of Anti-Japanese War was published in the Anhui Daily in 1937, Wei Qimei fostered a deep love of cartoons, his cartoons include caricature, complimenting comics and life cartoons, etc., and the existing cartoon manuscripts are a total of more than 800 pieces. His complimenting comics were originated and have a heartfelt, touching feeling; his caricatures were originated as admonishing and prompt, in order to point out many disadvantages existing in the social development, which was thought-provoking. Wei Qimei’s son Wei Husheng recalled that reading books and newspapers were both essential habits of Wei Qimei, he had always been concerned with social development, at the same time, he also read the classics, not only on the domestic work but also through the dictionary to read foreign books, so that, his cartoons were also a blend of Chinese and western cultures. In the last ten years of life, Wei Qimei had never stopped the creation of cartoons, which had become a part of his life.
Wei Qimei had left numerous cartoons with wide-ranging themes, and the curator of the exhibition Prof. Yu Ding said that, the exhibition had been in preparation for two years, it was like entering an ocean of knowledge at the beginning, and he even didn’t know how to start the classification, eventually he named the show “social encyclopedia”, classifying the works like an encyclopedia, involved in many aspects such as politics, economy, military, society, culture, education, sports, science and technology, health, environment and so on, almost containing each aspect of life.
Visiting the exhibition, the audience can understand the changes and existing problems from the year when the new China was founded to 2007, through the research and analysis of the social issues behind his cartoons, the background of the artist engaged in comic creation is rendered and restored, so that the audience can profoundly understand the comic material. In order to restore the historical situation as much as possible, in addition to the presentation of the original comics, it is through the literature displayed in the showcases, such as archives and real objects, the documentary films are interspersed in the works, as well as “The People’s Daily” and “Guangming Daily” displayed in the special zone, to build an atmosphere mixed with art and society. Simply seen from the comic form, Wei Qimei was good at outlining, giving priority to the black and white while the use of colors was only for emphasizing and as a prompt. The images of the characters of his cartoons are basically realistic, and he was good at the humorous expression and exaggerated processing of the contents and thoughts, rather than simply exaggerating the form, which is different from other cartoonists.
“Look for the mouth of the dark cave!” is the sentence at the end of the exhibition, and also the true reflection of Wei Qimei’s thought of his social life in the form of humorous cartoons. The exhibition remains on view till May 3, and the audience can read about a wise, witty and humorous Wei Qimei through the exhibition.
Text by Zhang Wenzhi, Photo by Hu Sichen/CAFA ART INFO
Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO