MEMORIES that fade as time goes by radiate a unique charisma in artist Wang Yuhong’s still lifes filled with old objects.
Wang’s solo exhibition, featuring photographs and canvases, is at Shanghai Gallery through October 8.
The careful arrangement of various items stamped with historical traces, as if shuttling from a certain time and space, though without a theme, are perhaps the traces in life.
These days, against the background of an explosion of information and visual images, still-life paintings may seem a cliche in many people’s eyes. But Wang has been in love with the medium for several decades, trying to “dig out” the possibilities of the art form.
In recent years, she diligently employs photography, print-making and other techniques to breathe fresh life into this classic genre.
Born in Shanghai in 1972, she is a graduate of the sculpture department at the prestigious China Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. Her still lifes of bamboo, blue-and-white porcelain, vintage comic books and other memorabilia brought her early fame as she set out on her career as an artist. Her works have been widely exhibited in Europe and the United States, and her paintings have been acquired by the Shanghai Art Museum, the Liu Haisu Art Museum, as well as by private collectors around the world.
Whether miniature landscapes or amplifying some still-life items, these items can’t be easily categorized in a simple way, as the artist has already fused some psychological projection on them. In such arrangement, she is able to fully use her veteran realistic painting skill with a poetic and elegant spirit.
The still-life object under Wang’s brushstrokes is actually a combination of realistic, implication and illusion. They merge with each other and form a creation by the artist with a humanistic spirit. Her painting reflects her strong academic background.
Yet the calmness found in her art reveals her methodology. “My friends call me a lunatic,” she says with a smile, “Because I can paint for hours and even days without ever leaving my studio. Sometimes I offend some of my friends unknowingly, as when they talk with me, my mind already floats away to my art.”
Although Wang refuses to talk about her private life, she reveals that “being a pure professional artist, especially a female artist, is rather a tough job.”
Li Chao, a renowned art critic, commented: “The paper, brush, inkling, chop plus the ceramics and pottery seemingly represent the impression of Chinese culture. But when on closer inspection of her paintings, the viewers will naturally find that these items are deciphered in an intricate way by the artist.
“She strengthens the inner humanistic care of these items that they become the art symbols of her own. Once these items are fused with colors, their images are transformed from the traditional visual elements to a more implicative world of oil painting. Wang offers us the deciphering of realistic painting with a new pondering.”
Apart from her original canvases, Wang said that recently she is engaged in her new “Lego” series that discusses the possibility with canvas and high relief.
“True, I could sit comfortably on my canvas, but I spent a great deal of my time and effort in photography, print-making and installation,” she said. “Because that’s my own way in pursuing art, maybe hard and exhausting, but that’s my way.”
What is the biggest challenge facing female artists?
I don’t know about the other female artists. For me, it is time. I always feel that I am short of time, because there are too many miscellaneous things to do in life that disrupts me from art.
Some say classical still-life paintings are dated, do you agree?
Of course not. In fact, the popularization in art education especially among children enables even many kids to draw still-life paintings. However, still-life painting is not merely about drawing several bottles.
In my eyes, still-life painting has already gone away from the repetition of pictures, but more a hand drawing plus with the interpretation of the artist.
For example, I have a different understanding toward the objects that I painted nearly 20 years ago. Perhaps the object is still the same, but one’s experience or interpretation toward life alters, which would be reflected in the way he paints.
Whether your photographic work or Lego series, all try to discuss the possibility of still-life paintings. Why have you never given up such new experiments in your creations?
Have you noticed my seven-piece tangram puzzle at this exhibition? The whole piece is made up of one of my still-life paintings, plus six monochromatic pieces. It’s a contrast between real and abstract, plain and perspective.
In my photographic work, I print the picture I shot on rice-paper, and later I add my traditional ink-wash drawings on the vacant corner I purposely left before. I think that canvas is sometimes bounded in brilliant hues, but through photography I am able to create two striking hues with a glossy touch.
The same goes for my newly Lego Series, I prefer the experiments of overlapping one image on another image, it is complicated and interesting. When high-relief encounters canvas, this echoes with the future trend of multi-interfaces.
Who is your favorite artist?
Gerhard Richter. He appears very natural in switching into different art styles and works.
What is the book you have in your hand?
“The Magic of Kneaded Clay ¬— Ceramic Collection of the National Palace Museum.”
What kind of experience that impressed you the most recently?
It’s the strong addiction of the teenagers to their mobiles. How a mobile could control them, shattering their willpower. Too terrible, their computer game seems to be their only goal in life.
How would you overcome your middle-age crisis?
Sorry, I am too busy to think about that.