We need not fall into the narrow cracks of nationalism — Hong Wei

洪卫

This year, Hong Wei received two Golden Pin Design Award 2017 Design Marks, and is vying for the yearend Golden Pin Design Award 2017 Best Design prize. His two award-winning works, ‘Twittering Sung’ and ‘A series of posters about chairs’, are both deeply embedded with the spirit of huaren design.

Not only is Hong Wei excellently talented in graphic design, but he injects his huaren design spirit into household furniture. Wei refers to “Oriental rhyme” when describing the spirit of huaren design in his work. However, he doubts whether the term “Oriental” has any active significance for design and society.

“We need not fall into the narrow cracks of nationalism,” says Wei. “If the world follows in the direction of contemporary Western modernism, then what one conceives to be ‘Oriental design’ will appear as if from the same mold. That would be a titanic fiasco, a flop.”

A series of posters about chairs - Jing (2)A series of posters about chairs - Xi (4)

He thinks of the “Orient” as a very mysterious, vague noun, and more like linguistic imagery, residing in a metaphysical realm. If such an opaque concept can be embodied with objects, then it rises to a state of being tangible, and filled with potential for execution.

“What I care about most is how it feels to be human,” says Wei. “Design is about relationships. It is an action, a reminder, and a wake-up call to society. The highest state of being that design can reach is through the delivery of concepts.”

His poster design work, ‘Fu Lu Shou‘, exemplifies the delivery of concepts. In the poster, two Chinese words, “ping an” (safe and sound) make up the the word “fu” (good fortune). Another two Chinese words, “yi shi“ (clothes and food) composes the word “lu” (an old word from imperial China, referring to an official’s salary). Another two Chinese words, “sheng ming” (living and life) form the word “shou” (longevity).

The characters in the phrase “fu lu shou” (fortune, wealth, and longevity), also represent three auspicious deities in Taoist folklore. They symbolize blessings, felicitous omens, and longevity. In contemporary China, people consider “ping an” (safety) in relation to “fu” (good fortune), “yi shi“ (clothes and food) in relation to “lu” (salary), and the quality of “sheng ming” (living and life) in relation to “shou” (longevity).

Such prevalent cultural values are what Wei seeks to convey upon re-examining the concept of “fu lu shou”, which is only comprehensible in traditional, Chinese-speaking communities.

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On the fact that more and more international enterprises are giving focus to this huge Chinese market, Wei comments with a smile, “I am not sensitive to the so-called market. Rather, I would like to investigate and think over the connection between design and humanity.”

‘Ping Yi’ (Savoring the Chair) is a product line from his furniture brand, Wei. It features a square frame structure, fusing the lines and dimensions of the chair, and enabling one to sense the profound Zen state of the human experience in comfort. He discards with the complex rules and restrictions of traditional Chinese furniture, aiming for maximum simplicity. Crafting furniture from wood, using the traditional Chinese “sun mao“ (tenon and mortise joint) carpentry, he bridges the traditional wisdom of craftsmanship and contemporary lifestyle, to fuse tangible objects and intangible Oriental philosophy.

品椅(1)He hopes to see more huaren design in the future. He thinks that contemporary design in Chinese-speaking regions is still in its developmental stage. He lists some of his favorite contemporary Chinese designers, or those that can represent the standards of huaren design — architects, Wang Shy and Liu Jia Kun — fashion designer, Ziggy Chen — graphic designers, Kan Tai Keung, He Jian Ping, and You Yi Shan.

Their design practice is representative of Wei’s contemporary huaren design philosophy. Looking to the future, he very much hopes to see more Chinese designers being accepted by the wider world. He continues his detailed investigation into the constituents of the “Orient”.

About Hong Wei

Hong Wei is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale, and Commissioner for the Bookmaking Art Committee of the Publishers Association of China. He was invited to serve on the judging panel of the 7th China International Poster Biennial, and Kan Tai Keung Design Award. In 2002, he founded Day Day Up Design Consultancy. In 2014 he established his furniture brand, Wei, exploring a humanistic perspective of design in Chinese linguistic landscapes. His works have won more than 200 domestic and international awards. He has participated in major international projects, such as Guangdong Image, Shanghai Expo, and Guangdong Pavilion Emblem. His poster designs are now archived in many well-known colleges, universities, galleries, and museums.

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