Just one look at Wei Wu’s portfolio and you’ll be hooked on the playful, sparkling style of her practice. But, a few minutes later, you’ll start to see there’s more than meets the eye; there are a variety abstract motifs navigating topics such as friendship, love, nature and spirituality. This is because Wei, a Chinese illustrator based in London, actively uses her medium to tell stories of society, relationships and womanhood.
Wei, who’s currently studying at Kingston University, had never left her hometown before heading to the UK to study. Inspired by the change of scenery, she started to draw as a means of documenting her new-found surroundings – it was a way of observing the world around her. Previously working solely with analogue techniques like pencils, acrylics and watercolour, it was during her time at university that she learned of digital illustration, which she now merges with her hand painting in order to construct narratives. “I believe a good picture should be open to interpretation,” she tells It’s Nice That, “and such extraordinary interpretation will become the germ of my paintings.” She also used to teach art to school children, which inadvertently expanded her imagination and opened up a pool of possibility for the illustrator.
Recently Wei created a project titled Gu’er Yuan, a Mandarin title that translates to “the wishes of orphans”. Devised from her experience with volunteering in a children’s welfare home, she sought to describe the scenes from the perspective of the orphans. The decision was made to “draw social attention to this vulnerable group through these pictures,” she says. “I have aways used metaphors to express feelings and abstract things in my paintings and looked from the perspective of a certain group or audience when considering what to draw.” The work is both playful and naive, but mature enough for it to represent a host of different meanings that go beyond the surface level of the work. And this summarises what Wei does best; she creates joyously aesthetic pieces that house a multitude of different narratives.
In Female Relationship, this series raises the bar of her illustrative style as she creates busier scenes replete with empowering characters, vibrant palettes and emotive storylines. Created on an iPad, the project looks at “the rich inner world of women and their complicated friendship,” explains Wei. It’s the first time she’s told the story from a female perspective, conceived through the creation of pastel-hair characters who are lathered in pearls, gems and placed in different positions. “Female Relationship explores two sides of women’s friendship: sometimes it is filled with love and peace, but sometimes hurt and betrayals.” Shortsighted, another piece from her expansive portfolio, looks inwards at Wei’s own past. The concept is derived from the “fear of a ‘blurred world’ in my childhood,” she adds. This “fight” with fear has been represented through an “adventure of my wonderland discovery” conceived through sharp buildings, towering objects and a tangled jungle that she tries to weave through. “Like Alice in her Wonderland, I too was exploring my world.”
Above all, Wei hopes that her works will illicit a feeling, and says she will never cease to explore the relationship between humankind and society, “at least for now,” she concludes. “I think the work is successful if it is thought-provoking, for better or worse.”
Wei Wu: Female Relationship, Closeness (Copyright © Wei Wu, 2022)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.