Tian Wei was born in Xi’an, the first imperial capital of China, and original starting point of the Silk Road, which played a seminal role in linking East and West together in a complex network of trade and reciprocal exchange. Steeped in the histories of Chinese cultures, Xi’an is rich in museums, including the famous Beilin Museum, whose ‘Stele Forest’ represents the most important repository of Chinese calligraphy in existence. Tian Wei left China for Hawaii, in 1986, to pursue a career in the arts. Upon completing his MFA in Hawaii, 1990, he subsequently settled in California. After years of travelling back and forth between America and China, he has been based in Beijing since 2011.
Last year, Tian Wei was announced as Artist-in-Residence for the Getty Research Institute 2017 – 2018 residency which explored the theme ‘’Iconoclasm and Vandalism.’’
Both theoretically and formally, Tian Wei’s work constructs a bridge between things that appear as dyadic opposites, binary poles or complementary pairs. This perspective of Yin and Yang is deeply embedded in Chinese thinking, and the artist’s frequent reference to Classic texts such as the I Ching (The Book of Changes) and Tao Te Ching appear as quotations in minute script patterning the background upon which larger semi-abstract cursive shapes are drawn. On trying to read these lines as Chinese characters, however, anyone familiar with Chinese poetry, painting or philosophy is bound to be frustrated, since the conundrum of interpreting the meaning of the flowing shapes can only be resolved in English. The lines, in fact, spell out simple English nouns and adjectives such as ‘Sexy’,‘Light’ and ‘Soul.’ These carefully chosen words give the viewer access to the artist’s lived experience of both Eastern and Western spheres.
Born in Xi’an, China 1955, Tian Wei received a scholarship to attend the University of Hawaii in 1986 where he graduated with a MFA in 1990.
In 1990, a solo exhibition of Tian Wei’s work, entitled From Mainland China to Los Angeles: Wei, Tian Painting and Drawings from 1980 - 1990, was held at the Armory Center for the Arts, California. The exhibition was curated by Josine Ianco-Starrels, former Director of the Municipal Art Gallery of Los Angeles.
In 2008, the Guangdong Museum of Art, Beijing, held the solo exhibition Oil Paintings by Tian Wei curated by Fan Di’an, Director of the National Art Museum of China.
The same year, Tian Wei was exhibited as part of the group show Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, UC Berkeley Art Museum, California.
In 2012, MOCA Shanghai, China, presented Mind – Tian Wei a solo show of Tian Wei’s work.
Throughout his career, Tian Wei has been the recipient of many prizes.