The ink painting Mending Nets made the cover of the catalogue for the 1995 exhibition “Vision and Revision: Wu Guanzhong”, which was the first ever thematic exhibition of the artist presented by the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Wu had a vivid memory of how the subject was captured: “It was in the fishing village Shitang in Wenling county, Zhejiang, in the autumn of 1982. I was up on a cliff taking a bird’s eye view of the fishing village. There, lying shimmering on the cement drying ground by the shore was a giant dragon. It was fishing nets spread out. Here and there in the nets are net-menders who resembled colour dots clinging onto the dragon. Sprawling, the nets were static and yet pregnant with activities. Woven into the net were fine lines, some coming loose while others tightly packed together. Strewn with the colour dots that were the figures, the lines appeared to be musical strings that were being strummed. I had painted many fishing villages, fishing boats and fishermen’s homes before but none could excite me as much as these nets lying on the ground. I tried to capture the feeling back home with the help of my sketch. I used dark green to approximate the real fishing nets. They were fishing nets alright but it just didn’t feel right when I compared them against my sketch done purely in black. As it is, the form and the sense of motion stood out when the green of the nets had been done away with in the sketch and it brought out the artist’s impressions more faithfully. So, I redid the nets in black ink. Crawling against the bright background, the black appeared to be more solid and more powerful than the green, and its sense of motion also stronger. Besides, those coloured figural dots which could have been drowned in the green nets sparkled more conspicuously against nets that were black! Probably set off by the fishing village in the background, the metaphor of net-mending is more readily understood with the help of the abstract rendering. The string of this kite has not broken. On the contrary, when I painted the nets in green, I was too much restricted by the figural representation to bring out its beauty. That was a kite that could not fly.”
Wu returned to the same subject in 2009, this time in oil. The texture of oil and the marks of the palette knife have further emphasized the vibrancy and music of the dragon-like nets.