Author: Alicia Muir

Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse

The exhibition ‘Ai Weiwei: Making Sense’ has recently opened at the Design Museum, looking at the work of the highly significant and influential Chinese artist and activist with a new perspective - through the lens of design. To coincide with this exhibition, which is Weiwei’s largest show in the UK since 2015, we will explore the artist's ability to address sensitive issues with elegance and fearlessness.

 

‘If my art has nothing to do with people's pain and sorrow, what is 'art' for?'

Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image
Study of Perspective in Glass (Violet), 2018-2019 by Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image

 

Ai Weiwei’s prolific, creative, and daring artistic output has made him one of the world’s most famous artists. Simultaneously artist and activist, Weiwei explores Chinese history and identity, tackling human rights violations across disciplines with the same sense of fearlessness and creativity, from installations to sculpture, photography, and film. By creating works that are unapologetically political, Weiwei has expanded preconceptions of what can be defined as art, bringing together the visual and the social.

Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image
Becoming (Set of 2), 2009 by Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image

Weiwei has said that he was ‘born radical’, it was not something he became, as he grew up in a family from the cultural avant-garde. Under the Communist government, Weiwei’s father, an artist and activist, was exiled from Beijing, forcing the family to live in harsh confinement away from the city for 20 years.

Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image
Finger series (Buddha, Ghost, Hand with Gesture & Mask with Middle Finger), 2020 by Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image

Since 1995, Weiwei has depicted his hand making an obscene gesture. In the ‘Study of Perspective’ photographic series, Weiwei expresses disdain for state power by giving important and iconic buildings, monuments, and landmarks the middle finger. The series features institutions from across the world, from the first image of Tiananmen Square in Beijing to The White House and the Eiffel Tower. Weiwei turns the traditional tourist photograph on its head, focusing on his own hand rather than the significant landmark and subsequently illustrating the need for self-expression and freedom of speech and questioning the adherence and acceptance of state powers.

Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image
Artist's Hand (First Edition), 2017 by Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image

Whilst making his pieces aesthetically pleasing is not Weiwei’s priority, they are playfully alluring and draw the viewer in. On a closer look, the artwork’s message is revealed and they are confronted with important concepts. At the risk of his own freedom, Weiwei continually proves himself as a political powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with.

Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image
Pecqui Tree by Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei: Force of Nature and Political Powerhouse | Image
Head over to Ai Weiwei's collection page to discover more poignant and provocative works from the artist and activist extraordinaire. 

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The Wild Swim from £120

Oli Mumby

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Off You Pop by Louise Nordh
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Louise Nordh

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Angel London

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50 x 70cm

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44 x 44cm

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70 x 100cm

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Maxine Gregson

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'Amazing' Shell - Framed by Charlie Evaristo-Boyce
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Charlie Evaristo-Boyce

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What's That Then by Nick Chaffe
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Nick Chaffe

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See You Later Alligator! £550

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Mark Petty

27 x 37cm

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Florence Blanchard

40 x 40cm

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Angus Vasili

59.4 x 84.1cm

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