Statement by Cao Weihong
My artworks, derived from meditations on female consciousness in traditional culture, are metaphors of my sympathy and mercy for the destiny of Chinese women in the old days. I have always had a strong interest in many aspects of traditional Chinese culture, especially in the furniture, decoration and customs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties; these things constitute a major part of my artworks. Moreover, I have a special feeling towards the decorative objects in females' lives in the old days-round fans, embroidered shoes, underwear, silk, handkerchiefs, jade bracelets, fragrant bags, embroidered pillows, curtains, the vases and fruits on the table etc. For me, they are living creatures telling people the history of traditional Chinese culture and of women's humble status in past times. What I want to express is a mixed feeling woven by both reality and imagination-a reality derived from the painting itself. It's also a fantasy, providing free space for a viewer's imagination.
I intend to emphasize "Chinese-ness" in every detail in my works: the people's poses, the background environment and the choice of colours. With the help of many elements frequently used in Chinese traditional paintings, I try my best to portray an elegant, quiet and delicate ambiance, which is seldom seen in Western oil paintings. All of the women in my paintings are actually doing nothing. This illustrates the leisurely feeling of women in the old days, who seldom did physical work. That is the reason why people living in feudal society developed a special manner that women should wrap their feet in order to have small-size feet.
I am not the first person to paint nude women. In my opinion, nakedness is another way to express chasteness and spiritual cleanliness. With hypocritical cloth as camouflage, women's intrinsic human characteristics still shine. I have not intended to make the subjects I paint "sexy". What I've done most is just to give them a sense of romance and allure. I pursue a sense of pure oriental romance in my paintings and emphasize a quiet and tranquil environment.
- Cao Weihong