Wei Shao’s focus on urban spaces and their functions is explored through her interest in the rules people make up for their city that regulate, categorise and standardise inhabitants’ lives.
In this excerpt from Varoom 40, Luise Vormittag talks to Wei about her ‘zine projects.
On the cover of Wei Shao’s Tree Town zine is a pencil drawing of a cube floating on an otherwise empty white background. It gradually unfolds to become a poster-size pencil drawing. There are tree stumps, staircases, and more cubes. Cube-shaped trees. Trees straining to break out of cubes. “This zine was inspired by a news story from my hometown Jinzhou,” illustrator Wei Shao, now based in Shanghai, explains. “They cut down lots of trees to build new apartment blocks. China builds the highest number of new buildings each year, even though we currently have around 200 million square meters of unused residential space.”
Wei’s work presents us with an asphyxiated natural world at odds with traditional images of landscape and nature that conjure up seemingly ahistorical, idealised scenes. Pictorial renditions of bucolic bliss became fashionable in England around 1800, born out of the contrast with the turmoil of the newly industrialised urban centres. But Shao’s work does the opposite of reassuring us of the everlasting, magisterial allure of nature. In her drawings plants and bodies are rigid, truncated and contorted. There is no sky. There is no ground.
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