Wang Qingsong:The Man of Huge Formats - Fritz Franz Vogel 2010

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Wang Qingsong
The Man of Huge Formats

by Fritz Franz Vogel



    In den 1980s, it was discovered in the Far East that it was more affordable to take apart machines and devices imported from the West, to then produce the individual parts in large numbers, and finally to reassemble them. This multiplication required hardly any research or innovation, but relied primarily on hard work. As Photokina shows every five years, the result was a cannibalization and assimilation of Western technology in favor of an affordable reflux of goods “Made in China,” and that with increasing, now practically identical quality.

    Something similar is true about Far Eastern art. The rather sparse visual world of Chinese provenance was enriched by the visual and symbolic worlds of historical, artistic, and commercial images from the West with no qualms whatsoever, involving a shocking disregard for copyright, which is not known to the Chinese, shaped by a sense of public spirit and people's property. The fact that his art was printed in poor quality and without explicit permission on cups and napkins is by no means a problem for an artist like Wang Qingsong (born in 1966). Instead, for him the commercial spread of his work indicates its iconic quality and valid reputation.

    When we focus on several works from his body of works from the last twelve years, we can see this cultural goods transfer. Wang already in earlier works grazed on Western mythologies and art productions-as in Romantique (2003), China Mansion (2003) or Dormitory (2005) by designing utopian scenes with motifs by Ingres, Courbet, Manet, Munch, Rubens, Moreau, Boucher, Gauguin, Yves Klein, Allen Jones, Man Ray. The luscious stagings capture the globalized collision of cultures, whereas individual life history is interwoven with the world, cultural, art, moral, and mentality history in a striking fashion.


Present, 170x212cm, 2001


Romantique, 120x650cm, 2003  Full Vision


China Mansion, 120x1200cm, 2003  Full Vision



    The homage to the West can clearly to be felt, especially because the excerpts from art history are decontextualized and have been alienated from their original context in Christianity, classical modernism, or the entertainment industry. In Wang's work, the figures march alongside one another, and according to a Chinese conceptions, rituals and practices stand at the foreground, and not, as in the West, attitudes and representations. They are figures from familiar images come to life, which, like a tableau vivant, pose a riddle for the industrious educated classes to solve. For Wang, of course, at issue here is less guessing about the origin of a picture, but rather generating formal elements and allusions, and thanks to visual catalogs in the fashion of 2000 Years of European History in 5000 Illustrations to bring history up to date in the sense of a layering. Wang makes use of a store of figures from the most various times and places, charmed and enthused by their variety, without shame, without judgment, with hierarchization. He takes the substrate of the world and above all the of the Western world, because here the longest history of corporeal representation can be found.

    However, the exquisite broad format-the individual images are in a relation of 10:1-with its cinematic narrative dramaturgy refers more to the vertical and horizontal rolls that have been known in China since the late 12th century with asynchronous and synchronous representations of events than to the European panoramas on moving reels that only in the nineteenth century became widespread in the course of a gay science and a rising entertainment industry. Works like Night Revels of Lao Li (2000), Past, Present and Future (2001), Dream of Migrants (2005) or Yaochi Fiesta(2005) reflect this appropriation of Chinese history that threatens to be obliterated in the speedy process of modernization, which does not spare any victims. The occupation with the negative consequences of globalization can be seen in Temporary Ward (2008) where the world is presented as a hospital on a theater stage with over 200 physical and psychological victims.

    There's another reason for the fact that Wang is so obsessed with Western art: in China, sculptures are representatives of the dead. This is why Buddha figures are the most frequent figures. Modern figurative sculpture does not exist in public spaces. This is especially why the catalogs filled with Western art, with which the Chinese artists work and in which they look for motifs, represent something of a replacement. Alongside Jeff Wall, Martin Liebscher, AES+F, Thomas Brenner, Spencer Tunick, and Gregory Crewdson, the Beijing photo-artist is now another prominent star on the horizon, at the latest since his exclusive survey show at Kunsthalle Memmingen (2007).


Temporary Ward, 180x320cm, light-box, 2008

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