WANG QINGSONG - AKiko Miki for Site of Desire, Catalogue for Taipei Biennial 1998


AKiko Miki for Site of Desire, Catalogue for Taipei Biennial 1998


WANG Qingsong was a part of "Yuan Ming Yuan", the artist's colony that is now legendary in the annals of contemporary Chinese art. Until it was forcefully closed by the authorities in the early 90s, it was a Mecca for young artists coming to the capital from the provinces, and the community living in this abandoned building included people in the fields of theatre, literature and art. While he was working there, WANG Qingsong painted series of human figures with a realistic technique and covered with clear vinyl. The contorted figures and suffering faces of there figures who seem to be suffocating expresses the bitter experiences of many young people who poured into the cities from rural areas in a "blind flow", driven by the waves of reform and liberation.

The paintings WANG is showing in this exhibition are part of a new series which he has been pursuing in recent years. They are composite images created by computer from photographs and paintings and then transferred onto velvet silk, a traditional Chinese material. Critic Li Xianting uses the term "gaudy art" to describe this new style with its plethora of kitsch images, combining dazzling elegance with tacky vulgarity.

The artist rearranged the common, popular images, taken from government advertising the return of Hong Kong, promotional photographs of TV idols and body builders, famous paintings of the past, traditional "Nien hwa" and calendars, with unique vision and humor. The subjects all refer to happiness, longevity, wealth, prosperity, and authority. By deliberately creating a gaudy, vulgar atmosphere, the artist makes fun of the new dreams, hopes, and desires produced in changing social and cultural conditions. Homing in on the Chinese love of glitz and dazzle and desire for wealth and fame, he exaggerates these traits to make fun of the excessive commercialism, blind worship of Western culture and devotion to stars so prevalent in contemporary China. The references to peasant culture represented by corn, Chinese cabbage, and other vegetables in the picture, and the substitution of images, for example, the artist's face superimposed onto some else's body, point to the "fake" quality of contemporary Chinese society and culture under current programs of economic development.

Following the row of images imprinted on the lustrous, fuzzy velvet from right to left, one notices how they keep changing. The uncertainty and fragility of these images is obvious when they can be so easily changed by a shift in the viewer's position, hence they give a strong sensation of the insubstantial quality of our life and environment.

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