Wu Shanzhuan (born 1960, Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province) graduated from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou (now the China Academy of Art). Wu is one of China’s most enigmatic conceptual artists, whose work involves language, pseudo-text, humor, and symbolism from everyday life. Wu emerged as one of the leaders of the Chinese Conceptual Movement in the 1980s, and some of his most celebrated works of the period include his installation Red Humour International (1986), and Selling Shrimps (1989), which was performed at the China/Avant-Garde exhibition at the National Art Museum of China (Beijing, 1989). He was the first artist in China to incorporate textual pop references into his artwork, and laid the foundation for the development of his distinctive and erudite approach to painting, which engages with political chauvinism, advertising slogans, and religious scripture in lieu of the image.
Wu moved to Europe in the early 1990’s, and obtained a master’s degree from the College of Fine Arts at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg (Hochschule für Bildende Künste) in 1995. Wu’s later canvases evoke a combination of expressionism and graffiti. Diagrams, words, and symbols vie for space in the liminal visual landscape that hovers between conveyed significance and pictorial abstraction. By dislocating text and mass media dictates from their original contexts and cultural significations, Wu transforms them into empty signifiers, available for new usage and contemplation.
Wu continues to work as an artist and exhibits widely. Select solo exhibitions include Please Don’t Move, Bahnwärterhaus, Gallery der Stadt, Esslingen (1996); Vege-Pleasure, Ingolfsstraeti 8 Gallery, The Reykjavik Art Festival 1998, Iceland (1998); Thing’s Right(s), Cuxhavener Kunstverein, Germany (1999); and Today No Water, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, New York (2001). More recent exhibitions include a large retrospective of his work, entitled Wu Shanzhuan: Red Humour International, organized at the Guangdong Museum of Art (2008) and Kuo Xuan, an exhibition at Long March Space, Beijing, China (2013).
Select group exhibitions include Maos Ungezähmte Kinder, Römer Museum Hildesheim, Germany (1994); Inside Out–New Chinese Art, New York, P.S 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (1998); Conceptualist Art: Points of Origin 1950s–1980s, Walker Art Center, Miami Art Museum (2000); Made By Chinese, Galerie Enrico Navarra, Paris (2002); Chicago Art Fair, Chicago (2002); and A Strange Heaven: Contemporary Chinese Photography, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic (2003); and more recently, Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2014).
Wu Shanzhuan lives and works in Hamburg, Germany, and Shanghai, China.