Interview on “303 Signatures” Painting and Charter 08


Why did you paint this massive piece?

I was attracted to the story of Liu Xiabo and the creation of Charter 08.  This goes back to the terrible tradegy of 1989 and how the Communist Chinese government decided to literally run over the unarmed civilian protesters with tanks rather than reform.  At the same time I had seen the peaceful transition of Poland from communism in 1989.

victims 1989solidarnosc

Why was Charter 08 written?

In the events of the 2008 Earthquakes and the scandals of collapsed children’s schools, people started to investigate the scandals of corrupt politicians and builders colluding for profit at the expanse of children’s death.  Ai Weiwei was one of the principal independent investigators into this tragedy.


He created a massive display of backpacks construed into a mural.  The backpacks represented the 5000 children that perished in the earthquakes and shoddy schools. The mandarin in the work talks about the feelings of the mother of a victim.


“She lived happily for seven years in this world”

How did the government react to Ai Weiwei’s investigation and show?


Well, typical of the single-minded task of the CCP, they bull-dozed his $1 million studio in Beijing. They claimed he didn’t have a permit to the building code.  Its ironic that the CCP chose to actively destroy his studio while covering up their complicity in shoddy building destruction leading up to children’s deaths by mother nature.

How did other intellectuals respond to the Earthquake disaster?

charter08 charter081

Several writers gathered and produced the document called Charter 08.  This document was based on similar historical documents like the Bill of Rights and Charter 77.  Charter 77 was written by reformists in Communist Czechoslovakia that led eventually to the regime’s collapse in 1989. The Bill of Rights in the US was to balance the powers of the state, federal power and the individual.


Liu Xiabo was one of the principal writers and signers of the document.  Originally signed by 303 people and then presented to the CCP ruling party.  The document asked for the following reforms:

Amending the Constitution

Separation of Powers

Legislative democracy

Independent Judiciary

Public control of public servants

Guarantee of  Human Rights

Election of public officials

Abolition of Hukou System

Freedom of Association

Freedom of Assembly

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Religion

Civic Education

Free Markets and Private Property Protection

Financial and tax reform

Social Security

Protection of the envronment

A federated republic

Truth in reconciliation

Each of these 19 main points of the document are in the painting.  There are a total of 76 characters, which symbolically refers to the US liberation of 1776 as well.


How did the Communist party respond?

They immediately rounded up Liu Xiabo and several signers.  Liu Xiabo was eventually sent to prison for “inciting subversion of state power” for 11 years.  So fearful are the authorities of these 19 points of written reform.

How did the world respond?

Liu Xiabo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.  All representatives of Liu were blocked from attending and accepting the award on his behalf.  Over 10,000 people have signed online the Charter 08 since the original 303 signed.


Have other winners been blocked by their governments from accepting the Nobel Peace Prize?

Yes in 1935 Hitler kept Carl von Ossietzky in prison. In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was kept away by Burmese military government.  This gives you an idea of the type of government Chinese people live under.


How long did it take to paint this work?

Yes, it took up to 6 weeks.  My wife almost had a heart attack saying, “it’s blocking all the light!” continually.  I started with the red layer representing the strong red of traditional Chinese painting and pot paintings.  Then I painted a gigantic 303 in gold.  Then I painted the whole thing in black and eventually formed abstract shaped over the painting.  My next stage was to cut out each of the red characters.  My final stage was to paint most of the 303 signatures, over 900 characters, around the entire frame of the painting.

Are there other symbols in the painting?

Yes, the characters line up into 8 rows and 10 columns. In China, the year 08 for the Olympics came to represent the pinacle of luck as known in chinese numerology.  The tragedy of the 08 Earthquakes wiped out the good PR from the Olympics to expose the political corruption under the surface.  This painting hopes to capture the meaning of Charter 08 and the hope of Chinese people to reform their government into a modern democracy with respect for human and individual rights.

Is this work available?

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Interview of “TNT” painting


How did this painting evolve?

Originally, I had signed the painting about 2 layers before this, but was dissatisfied.  The colors were overly dark after applying a beautiful dark purple, so I was definitely not satisfied.  At that point, I did large white streaks of paint over the entire work and thought I had destroyed it.  Luckily, I had used fairly thinned out white paint. Then I put in the final white edges.

clausen painting

Did you have a particular inspiration?

Yes, I had just finished the interview of Don Clausen and seen 100s of his paintings at his house.  He has a bold style with black and white strokes using venetian blinds. I was directly inspired by his style from 2000 to 2013.


So what is the title about?

I thought of Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite aka TNT.  His major invention turned about to be a major destructive force in WWI, so newsmen labelled him the “Merchant of Death”.  Upon hearing this unjust naming, Nobel decided to recreate his will to use most of his wealth to create the Nobel foundation in charge of the Nobel Peace Prize.

peace prizemlk prize obama prizeliu nobel

His invention of this highly desired prize stimulated the drive of pacifism worldwide and help expose injustice in autocracies everywhere. Famous winners include Martin Luther King Jr., Obama and Liu Xiabo.

What do you think about China denying Liu Xiabo the chance to accept the award?

Really, it shows what type of government it truly is. The other governments holding back Nobel Peace prize winners include the military dictatorship of Myanmar and Nazi Germany.  This just shows how little they respect human rights and how fearful they are of non-government figures being recognized as leaders.

 hitler mao photo

Are any works available? 

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Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at