Eyes on Fire——Exhibition of Xu Weibo
City: Guangzhou
Curator: Kelvin Huang
Academic Presider: Sun Xiaofeng
Duration: 2019-04-20 ~ 2019-05-31
Venue: Kui Yuan Gallery
Address: No.9, Xuguyuan Road, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
Participating Artist(s): Xu Weibo


There are countless Chinese and foreign classical and literary allusions with regard to the imagery and symbol of fire. For instance, the ancient Greek mythology of fire stolen by Prometheus, which contains the sense of sublimity and tragic feeling of self-sacrifice; and the legend of phoenix nirvana, which represents enduring the sufferings and rising from them. The philosophical foundations of the East and the West are different while their pursuit of the spirit of fire has respective focus.

There are also many stories related to fire in Chinese history, such as the burning of the E-Pang Palace, the burning of the barracks in the battle between the Kingdom of Shu Han and the Kingdom of Wu, the burning of the Summer Palace, etc., a big fire broke out and led to a new wave of changes, illuminating a historical turning point. Although fire is elusive and unpredictable, “a single spark can start a prairie fire”, the greatness of fire has been witnessed by history.

The use of fire has great significance for the development of human society. Fire has changed the primitive state of eating animals raw, changed human being’s food structure and thus prolonged the life of primitive people and promoted social development. Engels said that: “No matter how great the invention of tools and the development of pasturing and livestock raising in the past, the initial conquest of nature by human beings started with the discovery and use of fire.” Fire is the original force that promotes the advancement of human society, and because of its mystery, it is deified, textualized and personified. It is hard to imagine how blind a world could be without fire.

Xu Weibo’s choice of fire as the theme and symbol of his works requires the support of the cultural system of the image and symbol of fire as the basis, so that to avoid falling in simplistic novelty hunting for diagram. The diversity of techniques stems from his multidimensional considerations in the study and expression of the symbol of fire. He captures the instantaneous image of fire through multiple angles, techniques and media. For him, the fire seems to fit the Chinese aesthetic pursuit of being between “like and not like”. In the free play and visual experience, fire is an excellent balance point. Of course, Weibo’s fire also bears secular auspicious meanings — prosperity and good fortune,suggesting that “this person will be popular” or “to cause a good sensation”.

Interestingly, water and fire are the opposites, but Weibo draws fire with water, and there is more dialectical meaning in it.

He paints the fire in his mind, which is the fire of thoughts, and the person who draws the fire must have the power to see clearly through. In front of his paintings, we are the audience and the other. It is a magical experience to watch “a fire” filled with talent in the state of mind of watching the fire across the river. Maybe there is really someone waiting for the phoenix rushing from the fire up to the clouds.

The above is for the foreword.

Sun Xiaofeng

Mar, 2019, in Guangzhou


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[Editor] 张艳