The Crossed Parallels Reform in art led to by the changes of times and society has not so much changed different attitudes towards life, world, art and living ways in life and different living ways, as having produced new concepts, approaches, form or interest. At present, it seems that its quite difficult to judge the contemporaneity of art with a kind of linear thinking way, namely purely from the nature of artists work itself; but rather, we pay more attention to the integral life experiences and identity in the environment, including observation on comprehensive elements like their self-retrospection, meditation and information process. In another word, analysis upon artworks and artists has been expanded and represented in the integral condition of their work and behavior form, while the work itself is merely one layer to be regarded; maybe the multi-dimensional comprehensive capability and the keenness towards contemporary culture, as well as the effective influence and significance brought to our society and art ecology are more important and critical. As to how on earth the works are, I do neither regard it to be the most important aspect nor measure or comment it with the past criterion. Because it is not only art that is important, maybe art is no more than a fortuity of life.
Wang Huangsheng is a Director of art museum, and an artist and curator as well. He is active in the contemporary art circles of China with multiple identities; the transformation, crossing and parallel of different identities represent obviously and amply on Wang Huangsheng, which is also a kind of phenomenon in the world of art. While being engaged in managing and leading art career, some artists can constantly make innovation in art creation and gain achievement in both; one of the best model who could combine the two works well should be, in my memory, Hua Junwu of the older generation who worked as a leader in China Artists Association for a long term. Certainly this had some relationship with the feature of his cartoon art creation. As an artist, Wang Huangsheng has engaged himself in the process of Chinese contemporary art from early 1980s (Modern Art: The Fuzzed Nationality and Diversified Personality, by Wang Huangsheng, 1st Issue, 1986 of The Trend of Art Thought ). When he was doing ink and wash painting creation, he also edited and published magazines and books of art, and curated a series of exhibitions as well as seminars. As the director of art museum, Wang Huangshengs donation in the function construction of public art institutions like art museums in China can never be obliterated. When he took the position of vice-director of Guangdong Museum of Art in 1996 and director in 2000, the Guangzhou Contemporary Art Triennial, Guangzhou Photo Biennale, China Experimental Ink and Wash 20 Years Exhibition, Humanism In China: Contemporary Record of Photography Exhibition as well as international communication exhibitions as brand of the Guangdong Museum of Art , together with the exploration, classification and collection of the art history of Guangdong area, the edition and publishing of art history and other documents, as the art career record of Wang Huangsheng and his relationship with the art ecology, has witnessed the tortuous process of development of Chinese contemporary art. Yet from when he was transferred to Beijing as the director of CAFA Art Museum in 2009, Guangdong Museum of Art went downhill gradually and we could all see the blooming of CAFA Art Museum. In Chinese reality which depends on the rule of man rather than institution to complete rules, this might be a somewhat helpless outcome and a problem worth reflection.
Wang Huangshens ink and wash art creation has both inherited the spirit and quality of Chinese traditional literati ink and wash painting, and shown characteristics of the reformed ink and wash art which is associated with western painting; however, what I value more is his experimental exploration in form of ink and wash. In my memory, early in 2002 when we co-curated the 1stGuangzhou Contemporary Art Triennial, I saw his ink and wash installation work Civilization Sacrifice (2002) pointing to the 911, while this year, his ink and wash installation work Seeping exhibited in the Paper Non-Paper: The 1st China-Japan Paper Art Exhibition, although given up the rules on brush in traditional literati painting, but elements like water and ink were still kept in use. Superficially, this point showed the meaning of inheritance or respect for tradition, but whats critical is that he utilized the way to show ink and water, namely seeping, which, in traditional thought of China, is a kind of physical representation of the essence of Chinese ink and wash art. Wang juxtaposed the flowing ink and water with the comparatively still hard edged iron plate, and then slowly merge them to show the landscape of ink and water; he realized the possibility to go freely through a new context and reflected that, on one side the recognition and attitude towards material in a traditional Chinese thought of Wang Huangsheng as an artist, and on another side, the formal structure which has something universal bestowed by him to it. This is one of the study case in which I understand the Chinese nature and the reflected contemporaneity. In fact, if you really want to be related to contemporary, it is unnecessary to emphasize brush or ink as a premise, or a factor to concern. Today when image processing technique is fairly well developed, approaches and materials available for artists are no longer problematic at all. Moreover, a set of very complete comment system has been established in traditional ink and wash art of China, therefore, to reform, one must make changes in concept, idea and linguistic form, which is a main difficult problem the ink and wash artists are facing. Maybe it is precisely the ideology and methodology that could make overwhelming impact on traditional ink and wash, and could make essential steps forward in the ink and wash art creation of China. Because, meditation and sensitivity upon contemporary cultural context will lead to methodological changes to old art forms and what our artists need is to reflect this thought and concept in a way defined to be art.
Seeping: A Cultural Attitude Wang Huangshengs recent, Seeping, is a small size installation. A rectangular stainless-steel device of 3m in long and 1.3m in wide is full of mixture of ink and water (called as ink-water following), and a thin iron plate of 1m in high traverses it. The front and back of the iron plate is covered by raw rice paper. Surface of those rice paper has been processed with yellow drops, so that if one does not look at the caption, he shall assume that the plate is a thick cardboard similar with rice paper. Additionally, this installation work is shown at the exhibition Not Only Paper, it gives viewers a misreading: they almost convince that this hard texture of iron plate, as like this non-paper is real paper (paper/iron-plate), and this paper/iron-plate is placed in the ink-water within the stainless steel pool. Ink-water is in stationary state, while paper/iron-plate changeable, its elegant contour stretches freely in the air. Traces of water and ink in rice paper between the interface of ink-water and paper/iron-plate connect two color blocks of black and yellow. And these traces appear as dark purple-brown, such like dense forest along the river. And reflection of jungle is copies in water.
Yet from his Clue Series started in 2009, to the Moving Visions Series of his works created in 2011, they could be commented in the way of the so called from figurative to abstract which was for his earlier works, but rather, they need to be interpreted from the complicated life circumstances he faced. In my mind, Wang Huangsheng is not merely focusing on the conception of Chinese ink and wash painting as well as the secrecy of emotion, but rather, he revealed a kind of internal outpouring through the twining lines, thus he could make the integral structure of the picture form a kind of ensemble-style tone with multi-voice, or in another word a kind of multi-voice sonata around the same mood. His experimental ink and wash creation was defined by his life circumstances and his attitude, signifying and emphasizing a kind of helplessness towards the reality, as well as a kind of uncontrollable endless conflicts and paradox, which are similar to us among them who have neither starting point nor end. The crossing of lines and spaces between them, the comparison between ink and white, grey, have all merged into an awkward state of the reality in the structure of formless and concrete, true and false. Except for the narration discourse from the inner heart, and the multi-tone structure with multi-voice resonance, Wang Huangshengs art is also special in his image processing which set a kind of visual tension. This tension is not only reflected in some natural objects and sceneries like lotus, twinning branches and sunflowers, but rather, he put the whole picture into a kind of saturated scene of tension. He disordered the structure intentionally and cut it into countless fragments, then he connects their traces on the mottled background, and introduced dream into reality; moreover, along with their charming postures of standing, dancing and others, undoubtedly, broad and profound survival background, and a kind of gloomy and melancholic mystery are also provided for his inner artistic representation. This kind of mysterious tremble has bedded the essence of main visual body and achieved the spaces between dream and reality as well as their merging; the clear changed into illusory images and then this kind of images are overlapped with realistic shapes to explore the capacity of the subject; pure linear thought changed into ink and water and is raised to become permeating factors. This is a kind of sensation of mutual relationship. Meanwhile, I think, his art creation also has a kind of wild behavioural consciousness. This does not refer to his behaviour in specific life, but to his wildness in his artistic creation. This wildness means the fanciful sense in his unconstrainedness. Bold and wild artist mostly owns outstanding ability and wisdom, they pursue freedom in spirit and admire transcendence in personality, moreover the randomness and freedom in style. Maybe the busy and trivial daily work or the depressed and bored mood has led to Wang Huangshengs Motion/Imagination traces in his Watching the Star like an astral trip.
In the description of human culture and attitude, water has two forms of static and dynamic as their primary modes of existence - so called flowing water does not rot defines flow characteristics of the water, and still water runs deep s a description from waters still imagery to its inner nature. Wang Huangsheng uses the last mode in Seeping.
Then, is this exploration of Wang Huangsheng a form stopped on the immetaphysical level or a metaphysical insight of contemporary spirit constructed on experimental ink and wash? Obviously, he had reflection on both of them. In his artworks, although he used a kind of chaotic language of ink and wash to express his willing, yet viewers could obviously sense the age vicissitudes as well as the conflicts and contradictions between traditional and contemporary, oriental and western in a social transformation period, and that his works reflected survival dilemma, tension and distortion of humanity, and the psychological anxiety. This is direct unfolding of Wang Huangshengs personal experience and condition, as well as his experimental approach on facts record and fiction. The reason why these artworks by Wang Huangsheng could raise my sympathy is precisely that we are also experiencing the similar complicated psychological condition expressed in these works; the imagery expressed in his pictures in a flash as well as those confusing conditions are still going on; we urbanites who are living a life under both survival and spiritual pressure like in a crack, can hardly found the authentic posture of living and the rest of spirit. This is why sympathy is easily raised; however, the sympathy itself needs further reflection. Because the content that raised sympathy is not growing up naturally in individuals or pursued actively by individuals, but is imposed on us by this time and society while hardly anyone could avoid and refuse this imposed thing; we can only grow up under the rule of time and society and then the present historical facts are made: we think this is our personal thing, but actually it is almost the common experiences and situation of all of us.
This image was taken at noon on the first day of exhibition, the still ink-water gradually infltrated along rice paper, formed the jungle-like state as now we see. Ink-water move every minute and every second, only Wang Huangsheng controls in some way the seepage velocity of ink-water, so tht naked eyes or peoples patience almost cannot see the seepage of ink-water. Jungle emerges casually, when one visits the exhibition hall each day, the shape, height and color, texture, and layer of jungle had changed and it is difficult to describe when these changes had happed. As like casual passing of time divids unchanging sky into day and night in human eyes.
Post Refined Joy: Traces of Hand and Heart Wang Huangsheng named his first comprehensive solo exhibition as Post Refined Joy and asked for my opinion. My first response was that it was quite innovative but was very difficult to interpret, just the same as the Super-Organism exhibition curated by him at CAFA Art Museum. However, after viewing the majority of his works, I gave high recognition to the exhibition theme because his works, different from the works of Super-Organism, were not so esoteric.
Feng Boyi Critic, Curator
In this sense, time is the key to interpret Wang Huangshengs Seeping. By the process of ink-water slowly seepaged in the rice paper, Wang Huangsheng materialized the time, so time becomes an important medium in his work. It is said that when Wang Huanghsneg provided information on works, he wrote in the column Medium: rice paper, iron-plate, ink, water, time. It appears that his thinking of the time go beyond other artists awareness of time; when he thought of time rose to a creative medium, at least in concept, he is distinct from the others.
Speaking of refined joy, the debate of the refined and the popular must be carefully studied. The refined means standards and norms in the ancient literature, so-called Refinement is Correctness in Prelude of Mao Poem. Its the reason for the rise and decline of emperors reign. Chapter of Honor and Disgrace of Xunzi said that Gentlemen are satisfied with the correct path. The so called gentlemen are the men who are correct and virtuous are called the refined. The ancients believed that refined men have profound joy which means only the refined men have profound joy and charm. And the refined gathering which were favored by the ancient Chinese scholars means the gathering in which scholars recite poetry and discuss knowledge. The word refined gathering originates from the famous Refined Gathering at West Garden in the history of Chinese culture. In the Northern Song Dynasty, Su Shi, Su Zhe, Huang Tingjian, Qin Guan, Li Gongli, Monk Yuantong and Taoist priest Chen Bixu gathered to write poems and articles, drink tea and seek rhymes at the West Garden in the mansion of Commandant Wang Shen who was the son-in-law of the emperor. Another well-known scholarly gathering is the refined gathering at Orchid Gathering recorded by Wang Xizhi of the Jin Dynasty in his Preface of Orchid Pavilion. At the beginning of late spring, a large number of talented people arrived. They played the drinking game, viewing the distant landscape and broadened their minds. The refinement of their words, deeds, poems and articles reached the peak of that time.
May 6, 2012
In context of post-moderism critique, time cannot be distinguishable as linear trace of development as classical assertions., so it can be cut orderly as the past, now and future. The time of classicism is spatialized often; and it is not stretch as Bergson described in modern interpretations, because stretched time refuses to be spatialized and its existence is not linear., but simultaneity, multi-dimensinal; in the opinions of post-moderists, the nature of time is non-continuity, contingency and uncertainity, in particular makes the subject feel of absense. Without witnessing how things become now instead of before, or today instead of yesterday, the subjects absence at that time makes the current description more poor, lacking of clear or direct evidence. Confronted with like this shown by time, the subject has a hysteresis, as like Baudrillard had said, it means come lately. The subjects experience of time appears as non-continuity, broken and arbitrary, just as viewers are watching the Seeping. Viewer knows by concept and common sense that, with the passing of time, shapes and colors seepaged by ink-water in the rice paper always change so slow, that it is invisible to the naked eyes. And when you see it with the naked eye, in the face of change, viewer seems to be a late coming people; his perceptioon of changes of ink-water is lagging, incidental, non-continuous, fragmental and arbitrary.
As I understand it, the Post Refined Joy means after refined joy. Today, is this refined joy of ancient scholars still able to continue? The works of Wang Huangsheng actually do not raise a question, but express his attitude towards todays society, life and art. In my opinion, this attitude is walking out of the scholars poetic quality in traditional ink paintings, directly facing the real image of visual art and seeking the spiritual home for contemporaries in the image structure and form with more visual extension.
However, the spatial appearance of time in Seeping seems to be classical. Firstly, it enables viewer to see that ink-water seepages through the rice paper, and ink-water in rice paper wets the iron-plate, and iron-plate effuses rust, thus rust seepages the rice paper, condensed on it, and become flowers in paper by iron. Rust flowers on yellow paper/iron-plate is dark purple, and deep purple rust flowers set off the ink-water as deep blue; with a glance, it looks like a classical ink painting, and its creation and presentation are rendered by installation of postmodern art. Especially the shape of paper/iron-plate looks like a piece of traditional Chinese scroll full of flavour of scholars; it not only changes the texture of iron, but also the properties of iron as a sign of industrial civilization. In addition, texture formed by natural seepages of the ink on rice paper is similiar with methods hit the water or hit the powder which used most often by artists. Wang Huangsheng gives the day-to-day works to the nature, or delivers to the Seeping itself to complete. Seeping works each day and all time and infiltrates, creates the work for him. From some point of view, Wang Huangshengs Seeping comes across the classical and contemporary art.
As an ink painter, Wang Huangsheng was born into a paining family. As early as 1980s, he showed his enthusiasm and talent on freehand brushwork. Certainly, his early works did not free themselves from the popular freehand brushwork of that time. Moreover, they have strong sketching characters with the descriptive real life images as subject of expression. But the time for the real sublimation of his art is after he entered Guangdong Painting Academy, a professional institution for art creation. Throughout Wang Huangshengs art creation since that time, it can be divided into three phases.
The cultural significance of Seeping seems to be more thought-provoking. When viewers sight goes through the beautiful surface of Seeping, what he sees behind is really the dialogue between classical Chinese culture and modern industrial civilization, between classical Chinese aesthetic and contemporary art forms. This dialogue has a senes of history because of the slow changes of ink-water in rice paper. It is true that change of customs, replacement of the concept, change of society and culture, mostly are formed slowly and inadvertently, which is described as the bistorical norm by cultural historians. And such a slow change often makes the both parties of the game to mutual osmosis. When the ink rusts the iron plate, it appears that industrial civilization has been digested by traditional culture; while rust goes through the rice paper and makes flowers on it, it seems that industrial civilization covers traditional culture; but when you discuss carefully the rust, you can find that if it is not attached to the paper, wheres the beautiful flowers? The flower-like rust is the child of iron, but born from the ink-water. That being said, both are common at this time, there is you inside me, by the interaction, the new is born.
The first phase is his creation at Guangdong Painting Academy in the early and middle 1990s. The subjects of Wang Huangshengs creation in this period were floating clouds, flowing water, thatched cottages, constellations and screens. In short, he painted all the things between heaven and earth and their mutual relations. The Heaven and Earth series expresses the majestic Chinese culture and focuses on the communication between the small space of picture and the big world. Through the portrayal of rockery stones, gardens and plants, his paintings touch the painters soul and make people possess everything in the spiritual world and connect with the universe. During this period, his works have great mind which contains the heaven and the earth.
From this meaning, Wang Huangshengs Seeping may indicate his stance toward culture, which expressed in his thinking on relationship between classical civilization and contemporary culture, pastoral tradition and industrial civilization, classical aesthetic mood and forms of contemporary art, as like in his installation works, seepages ceaselessly and constantly.
The second phase is from the late 1990s to the early new century; Wang Huangsheng took charge of Guangdong Museum of Art. During this period, he devoted much of his energy and time to the development of Guangdong Museum of Art and had no much time to focus on the creation of large-scale works. Instead, he created a group of small works of flowers which was named as Leisure series later. This series of works are mostly small colorful works which reveal his efforts to approach abstractness, his more unrestraint using of ink and that his focus is the abstract relations of expression subject. The vases under Wang Huangshengs brush are related to the modern life. The unrestrained expression focuses on the exploration of Chinese painting elements such as brush, water and paper. The picture under Wang Huangshengs brush is scattered with dots and lines like falling flowers which advocate a free spirit.
Guo Hongmei PhD in art history of China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Researcher of CAFA Art Museum
The third phase began with Wang Huangshengs transfer to China Central Academy of Fine Arts as the curator of CAFA Art Museum in 2009. During this period, because of extensive contacts with modern and contemporary art of both Chinese and Western, his art vision was wider and his ink painting entered a period of extensive exploration which not only has the deepening and continuing of styles of the first two periods, but also begins the transition to more purely modern ink painting. The most impressive is that Wang Huangsheng began to transcend the comprehensive balanced expression of brush, ink, color and line in his early works and turned to the in-depth study of the basic elements of ink art which led to the creation of a group of works with lines as unique features. This group of works could trace back to the tree branches painted by Wang Huangsheng in 2008 and 2009. Although this group of works maintained the rhyme of Chinese ink painting, they have strong modern visual form. Personally, I am very fond of this group of works. They possess the motion sense expressed in the works of American painter Pollock. In the process of work viewing, viewers are able to feel artists passion and the sense of speed in the painting.
January 15, 2012
The lines in Wang Huangshengs recent works are very free and a lot of things are filtered out. But he insists that the lines have brushstrokes of Chinese painting which makes his works maintain the unique brushstroke meaning of Chinese painting. Certainly, in the early stage of transformation exploration, the qualities of this group of works are not even. The good works give a feeling of unrestrained freedom and some lesser works look insubstantial. Similar to the American abstract expressionism, Wang Huangshengs works move towards large-scale paintings from small ones. He painted a lot of large paintings, but the picture structure and form are purer. Wang Huangsheng thinks that drawing large paintings could bring him a sense of liberation and make him very pleasant. When he wields the brush on the paper, there is full freedom of lines in the picture, and with the fortuity, the process of painting has cut loose from the pattern of traditional freehand brushwork which enriches the acts and traces of painting. This is in line with the consistent style of Wang Huangsheng, what he wants from painting is fun and happiness. Although he is a professional painter, he always has the mind of an amateur, namely the non-utility attitude. The painting ideal of Wang Huangsheng is to get rid of what seems to be Chinese painting at the first sight and seek more modern language form and spiritual image in picture. He likes to convey a kind of divine breath in the free walking of the lines during the process of creation which gives the flowing feeling to the space in the picture.
Throughout Wang Huangshengs ink paintings, the painting features in three different phases are quite different. It seems that they pursue different goals and directions, but I think there are some things in common. Whether it is landscape sketch or freehand flower, we can temporarily give up the viewing of the overall image of his paintings in different phases. Observing from details, we can see that in the creations of different phases, Wang Huangsheng always keeps attention on the organizational juxtaposition of pure ink symbols and the quality of pure component elements such as lines and ink mark. This constitutes the modernity value in his works. In his works of three periods, we can see that while expressing physical image and form such as branches, flowers and leaves, some traces of ink gradually separate from the image of subject, follow the mind of the painter and freely combine in the picture, forming a new relationship of visual structure. Similar to the development of abstractness in Mondrians works, the interweaving of lines in Wang Huangshengs recent works actually comes from the entanglement of branches in his early works.
In fact, this pursuit of modernity value already began in the times of Shi Tao. In comparison with the requirement of traditional painting to carry with it the values of politics, ethics and literature (poetic quality), Shi Tao put the visual sense of painting in the central position of this creation. He highlighted individuals self-understanding, spoke on behalf of the mountains and rivers and fulfilled the God-given responsibility. The process of searching all the wonderful peaks for sketching actually transcends the traditional and stylized authority structure and establishes the epistemological framework on personal empirical experience. Based on such a subjective principle, Shi Tao established a new ink structure and language form which is consistent with personal trace of heart.
Wang Huangshengs recent works remind me of famous painter Shang Yangs important solo exhibition held in Tsinghua University Art Museum. Its theme is Diaries and Scripts which marks the importance of artists personal taste and constant reflection on individual disposition in contemporary art. In a sense, lines and colors in art works are a kind of trace in the process of painting. They are also the external expression of painters inner world. Trace of hand is trace of heart. The lines in Wang Huangshengs works seem to be organized in a disorderly way. They actually reflect not only the sensitivity of the painters heart on visual composition of picture, but also his current flowing of mood. This picture form which reflects the spiritual energy of subject actually has nothing to do with the poetic sense and refined joy of traditional scholars painting. The majority of them does not come from the literary tradition in paintings but from the current social reality and visual culture environment and possesses rich symbolic images.
Yin Shuangxi Professor of China Central Academy of Fine ArtsMay 1, 2012