The experiences of childhood often exert an important influence throughout an artist's life time.
Zhiwei Tu was born in a poverty-stricken mountain village in Wengyuan county, Guangdong province, China. His painting, Lunch (1984), depicting a peasant couple who were taking a lunch break by the field, probably embodies some impressions from his childhood.
Among people living in remote districts (in contrast to city-dwellers), there still remains many of the old tales and legends. This is perhaps one of the reasons why Zhiwei Tu in his later career has been interested in historical events. But it is more important to note that he has been, in his art, seeking the expression of the honesty, naivety and primitive vitality inherent in the people living in these remote districts, which can be seen in whatever he depicts – in his historical paintings, and portraitures of the Tibetans, the oriental and the occidental, even in rendering of nudes.
Tu received his BA and MA degrees from the Guangzhou Institute of Fine arts, and served for seven years as an art assistant professor at the same institute. Some senior professors in the institute had gone to various countries to make study of 19th and 20th century western art including Realism and French Impressionism. By learning from them, Tu laid a solid foundation in his basic skills and the use of colors.
In 1987 Tu came to the U.S. to make further study of oil painting and was granted a second degree of MFA at Drake University in 1990. There he was greatly encouraged and inspired by his advisor Prof. Jules Kirschenbaum. In the process of studying contemporary American art, Tu has gradually formed his own style. His work has been exhibited many times and has won several awards including three golds and one silver medal.