Zhaoming Wu was born in China and grew up in Guangzhou City. He received his BFA from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art and later earned his MFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
Since 1983, he has been exhibiting his work in Asia, Europe, The United States and other countries around the world. He has won a number of awards, including the Merit Award at the 6 th National Art Exhibition in Beijing, the Gustafson Fund Award, The National Oil and Acrylic Painter’s Society Award, 1st Place in the 9th Biennial National Figure Painting and Drawing Exhibition and the Daler-Rowney Award from the Oil painters of America.He has long been active both as an artist and a teacher. He is currently a painting instructor at the Academy of Art University. His work has been featured in numerous magazines, and a book of his paintings and drawings has been compiled and published. "Going His Own Way" by Patricia O'Connor
Art of the West Magazine • Sept/Oct 2004
In 1967, the year Zhaoming Wu turned 8, the Chinese Cultural Revolution was in full swing. Violence and repression were the order the day. Under leadership Chairman Mao Zedong, all things smacking of the West, from fashion to fine art, were abolished – and every school in the nation was closed.
Today, many years and even more miles later, Wu is well educated and his paintings are nothing if not Western in style and theme. Anyone can, if they study hard, use paint to report on the bend of an arm or the arch of a back, Wu says. His figures, however, are something more, seemingly caught somewhere between motion and silence, between the whirl and spin of human existence and the quiet center of its contemplation. There are no calligraphic brush strokes to give away the origin of their creator. “You can’t really see Asian style in my painting.” Wu says. Still, it was the training and experiences he had in China that allowed Wu to become the accomplished Western artist he is today.Wu lives in San Francisco, California, with his wife and daughter and teaches at the Academy of Art College, the same institution that granted him his Master’s Degree in Fine Art.
He has been exhibiting internationally since 1983 and has won numerous awards, including the Gustafson Fund Award from the National Oil and Acrylic Painter’s Society and first place in the Ninth Biennial National Figure Drawing Exhibition, as well as awards for the International Artists Magazine Challenge No. 4 and the Oil Painters of America. He’s lucky, he says, but even he will admit that it takes more than luck to succeed as an artist, particularly in China. Wu, just 8 when the schools were closed had little to occupy his time. His father worked as an engineer, his mother as a doctor. Wu stayed home with nothing to occupy him but a stack of comic books, a few pencils and paper. He copied the comic books, frame by frame. Then he made his own comics and eventually borrowed a book about Chinese brush painting from a family friend. “I copied every page,” he says. Wu’s mother recognized her son’s passion and set out to find a teacher for him, not an easy task during the Cultural Revolution. One day, she treated a man who had been wounded in one of the conflicts and, recognizing him as a professor at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art, she asked him to train her son, then 12.
Following his graduation from high school, Wu took a job as a graphic artist for an advertising agency which required that he take classes every morning in graphic design from the Shanghai Light Industrial College. He credits that early work for honing his skills and for helping him to understand how to use imagery to tell a story. In 1979, Wu was one of more than 2,000 applicants to the prestigious Guangzhou Art Academy and one of only 400 allowed to take the two-part entrance exam, which included literature, writing, math, foreign language, and politics, as well as four hours of drawing from a live model, four hours of still life painting, and four hours to create a painting from an assigned theme. Of the 400 who took the exam, only 32 were accepted: 16 to study Chinese brush painting, the other 16 oil painting, western style. Wu was in the latter group. I appreciated the western culture, no matter the subject, no matter the painting style,” he says. “I was very, very lucky." Chinese art academies had been run ala the Russian School but, by the 1980s, restrictions loosened and European art again became popular, as did American Art. “Andrew Wyeth was as popular in China in the 1980s as he was in the United States,” Wu says. As a student, Wu was required to paint outdoors for two months every year, so he and fellow students traveled to remote villages, living with the people and observing their customs.
They discovered landscapes they had never seen before, including deserts, which to Wu were as foreign as the surface of the moon. Wu worked hard, knowing that if he succeeded as a student he might have a chance to teach after he graduated. “In China teaching at college is a great honor, because only the best become teachers,” he says. Wu graduated in 1983, in time to participate in the National Art Exhibition, a government-sponsored show conducted once every five years. Although it was extremely difficult, and highly unlikely, for a young graduate to have a piece selected for the exhibition, Wu made the cut. He also made waves. Instead of painting propaganda to promote the government, he painted a scene from a village wedding. Although he was urged to change his subject, Wu refused. He was proud of his use of candlelight to illuminate the wedding scene, and he wasn’t about to change it. “Even now I want to paint something different,” he says. “I want to go my own way.”Suddenly, Wu was the center of media attention, features in national and international magazines. Before he knew it, he was showing his art in Asia and Europe and, eventually, in the United States. He also became a professor at the Guangzou Academy of Fine Art, where he taught painting for seven years. Along the way he married fellow artist Qiuzhen Wei.
Wu had it made, but China was in transition. Borders were opened, the economy changed, and artists were free to paint what they liked. The downside was that without government support artists had to learn to market themselves and their work. Several of Wu’s friends had immigrated to the United States, and he soon followed suit. “I wanted to see the world,” he says. And so it was that he secured a student visa and moved his family to California where he studied at the Academy of Art College, then began to teach painting there.Wu still does much of his painting in the classroom, from life right alongside his students. On his own time, he hires models for photo sessions, then paints them later in his home studio. Rarely does he have a plan when he begins his photo sessions. Instead, he asks the model to move in and out of the light, shifting through drapery and shadows, until something seems to click.“I see the figure as something else, a still life, or I see the still life as a figure,” Wu says. The curve of a hip or rise of a breast might evoke for him a mountain range or the winding path of a river bed. The light glancing off an upturned shoulder or lost in a cloud of hair might capture his mood better than words. “Putting human emotion into it,” Wu says, makes the transformation. “You see the subject beyond the subject.”Wu’s style is at once fluid and static.
He pulls the viewer’s senses through cacophony of color and light toward a single, sharp focus.Figures account for about 80 percent of Wu’s work, he says, with 20 percent landscapes, the reverse of his subjects while he was in China. “Landscape is easier than figure painting,” he says. “For the figure, you need to know anatomy. You cannot make a mistake. But for the landscape, a rock or mountain can be changed. You don’t have to be as accurate. You don’t have to rely on drawing as much as with the figure. For the figure, you need to capture form, gesture.
It’s a challenge and a lot of fun.”Wu finds that painting a landscape from time to time stirs things up, keeps him fresh. He and his wife and 15-year-old daughter, Dong Yi – also an artist – occasionally take painting trips together traveling to Europe and throughout the United States, finding Taos, New Mexico especially appealing. “It reminds me of China,” Wu says.When he isn’t painting, Wu writes poetry or listens to music “to recharge my batteries, he says. “If painting every day, the hand becomes very skillful, but art isn’t just skill. It’s how you think and interpret. Writing open eyes to seeing. The different mediums are all related.” Of course, Wu doesn’t stay away from his easel for long. “I just do what I love,” he says.
- 1995 MFA with Honor, Painting, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, CA, USA.
- 1983 BFA Painting, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art,Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
- 1996 Current Instructor of Painting, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, CA, USA.
- 1983-1991, Assistant Professor in Painting, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art, Guangzhou, China
PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES (selected)
- 2013 Juror international Portrait Art competition,European Museum of Modern Art, Barcelona, Spain
- 2013 Guest Speaker & Demonstration Artist, 2nd Plein Air Convention, Monterey, CA, USA
- 2013 Guest Speaker & Demonstration Artist,Federation of Canadian Artists, Calgary, Canada
- 2013 Guest Speaker & Demonstration Artist,Community School of Music and Arts, Mountain View, CA
- 2013 Guest Speaker & Demonstration Artist, Whidbey Island Art Studio, Whidbey Island, WA, USA
- 2012 Guest Speaker & Demonstration Artist, Corciano, Umbria, Italy
- 2012 Guest Speaker & Demonstration Artist, School of Pro’s Art, Edmonton, Canada
- 2011 Guest Speaker & Demonstration Artist, Guangxi Art Institute, Nanling, Guangxi, China
- 2004 Guest Speaker & Demonstration Artist,Opening of 13th National Juried Exhibition, Oil Painters of America, Kirkland, WA, USA
- 2002 Guest Speaker, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF REVIEWS (International & national art magazines)
- 2013 “Expressive Realism, dramatic shapes inform the cloudscapes and figures of Zhaoming Wu” American Art Collector Magazine, September issue, P124-125, USA
- 2013 “Zhaoming Wu Le Corps Comme Paysage ”French National Art Magazine“ Pratique Des Arts” June/July issue, 2013, P18-23, Franc
- 2013 “Art Challenge” International Artist Magazine, issue of August/September, P6
- 2013 “Talent on the opportunity Land”, Plein Air Magazine, February issue, P56-65, USA
- 2013 “The days about Watercolor Painting”, Watercolor painting Magazine, June issue, China
- 2013 “Arte y Libertad VII” P114-115, Artelibre Publisher, Spain
- 2012 “Arte y Libertad VI” P170-171, Artelibre Publisher, Spain
- 2011 “Arte y Libertad V” P144-147, Artelibre Publisher, Spain
- 2010 “Poets & Artist”, Magazine, February issue, P86-87, USA
- 2010 “Zhaoming Wu entre relisme et abstraction” BSC news Magazine, May issue, P41-47, France
- 2008 “Poets & Artist” magazine, fall issue, P22-25, USA
- 2008 “Designing the Landscape” CreateBetterPaintings.com Web Art Magazine, August issue, USA
- 2007 “The Figure as Landscape” American Art Collector Magazine, January issue, P158-161, USA
- 2007 “Dreams Realized” Art of west Magazine, May/June issue, P73-75, USA
- 2005 “Favorite Subject” International artist Magazine, August/September issue, P4-5
- 2005 “Special Beauty 2004” Art of west Magazine, Guidebook of western artists, 2005 11thanniversary,P45, USA
- 2004 “Going His Own Way” Art of west Magazine, September/October issue, P40-45, USA
- 2003 “Where Intuition Meets Logic” International Artist Magazine, April/May issue, P40-50
- 2012 “The selecting paintings of zhaoming Wu” hardcover book,181 pages, Tianjin people’s fine art Publishing house, China
- 2010 “The Overseas Oil Painter of China, the Oil Painting of Zhaoming Wu 3” softcover book, 79 Pages, Tianjin People’s Fine Art Publishing House, China
- 2010 “Course de Dessin from Academy of Art, The
- Drawing of Zhaoming Wu” softcover book, 59 pages, Guangxi Arts Publisher, China
- 2008 “The Overseas Oil Painter of China, the Oil Painting of Zhaoming Wu 2” softcover book, 73 Pages, Tianjin People’s Fine Art Publishing House, China
- 2006 “Sketch” portrait drawing of Zhaoming Wu” softcover book, 59 pages, Guangxi Arts Publisher, China
- 2006 “The Overseas Oil Painter of China, The Oil Painting of Zhaoming Wu” softcover book, 80 pages Tianjin People’s Fine Art Publishing House, China
- 2005 “Zhaoming Wu “ hardcover book, 120 page, self publishing, USA
- 2003 “Technique of Drawing” softcover book, 56 pages, Guangxi Arts Publisher, China
INSTRUCTIONAL ART DVD
- 2007 “Solitude” oil painting DVD produced by Liliedahl Art Publisher, Texas, USA
- 2008 “Sunlight” oil painting DVD produced by Liliedahl Art Publisher, Texas, USA
- 2009 “Head Drawing of Charcoal” drawing DVD produced by Liliedahl Art Publisher, Texas, USA
AWARDS & HONORS
- 2013 One of the outstanding alumnus in past 60 years, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art, China Notable Resident in Piedmont City, CA, USA
- 2013 Second Prize, Landscape Art Competition, International Artist Magazine
- 2011 Second Prize, figure art competition, International Artist Magazine
- 2009 Third Prize, favorite subject art competition, International Artist Magazine
- 2005 “Distributors Award of Excellence” Oil painter of America, USA
- 2005 Grand Prize, Favorite Subject Art Competition, International Artist Magazine
- 2001 Second Prize, Favorite Subject Art Competition, International Artist Magazine