Portrait of a woman, 2006
Oil on canvas
120 x 100 cm
47 1/4 x 39 3/8 in.
We thank the artist Mr Xu Weixin for confirming the authenticity of this work.
Given by the artist to the present owner
Private collection, Paris
Xu Wei Xin is a Chinese painter born in the province of Xinjiang in 1958. His work includes a series of large-scale portraits of ordinary people as a testimony to the victims of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. He considers that the large format of his works makes them more accessible and gives them a stronger visual impact, conveying his message more effectively. The transition from collective to individual portraits is a crucial step in his artistic career: beyond the social entity, the community representation, he focuses on the individuality of his model, his psychological dimension.
Xu Wei Xin's work has since been exhibited in many international museums, including the Shanghai Art Museum, the Beijing Museum of Modern Art and the National Art Museum of China.
Xu Wei Xin has chosen to paint miners for two reasons: they are, according to him, excellent subjects of inspiration and artistic creation; but he also made it his duty to pay homage to them, as a sign of respect for what they experienced. The testimony of their difficult living conditions can be seen in the face of this woman, whose eyes are still frightened. Frightened, or perhaps surprised to be the subject of so much attention from the painter, to be used as a model, when she is probably just one of thousands of workers. This is precisely what Xu Wei Xin seeks to do: to highlight ordinary people in order to honour their courage and experience, thereby making them unique through the particularity of their facial expressions and the emotions they exude. The testimony is not only in the eyes, but also in the purely physical features: while the wrinkles and blisters of the miners reveal the hardship of their daily tasks, the skin of this woman still looks smooth, youthful, yet she could be a mother. Despite the purity of her skin, her red garment seems to reflect on the right side of her face, creating the illusion of a burn. The binarity of the hues of the face, almost in chiaroscuro, and the saturation of the colours reinforce the impression of a still living wound.
Whether she is a minor, another worker, or a housewife, she is above all an ordinary person, emblematic of the Chinese working classes of the time. "Xu sheds light on those who are overlooked, focusing on the everyday individuals, giving a voice to those who are otherwise lost to the collective mass.." (Xu sheds light on those who are overlooked, focusing on the everyday individuals, giving a voice to those who are otherwise lost to the collective mass.)
Beyond individual testimonies, Xu Wei Xin aims to engrave History itself in time, for future generations: "I don't think they really know about it, or understand it, or even talk about it. It's important for them to know what their ancestors went through". It's important for them to know what their ancestors went through.)