Chinese Emerging Artist Wang Min Interview By Gallery Magazine
WangMin Looking for Art truly Alive
Since her first encounter with contemporary art at college, Wang Min never stops her exploration of artistic creation. The teaching of contemporary vision and concepts in South China Normal University, the study of social phenomena as well as the in-depth reflection of her personal experience all bestow Wang Min the courage and passion for contemporary art. She likes to experiment with various mediums, giving her a changeable style featured by unrestrained imagination and elusive absurd. In her own words, fine art must help us get rid of fixed ways of seeing, thinking and doing, for even just a moment. It’s as if we are living in a labyrinth of perplexities, not knowing where we are, and only by a clear self-recognition and a break from fixed norms can we be truly alive. Following, Gallery stages on an interview with the young artist Wang Min.
Gallery: As we know, you were majored in Modern Art in your postgraduate program. When did you encounter and how did you fall in love with modern and contemporary art?
Wang Min: In my freshman year,one of my friends recommended to me a name list of modern and contemporary artists home and aboard. Then I surfed online and began my initial encounter with this school of art. Later on, I was heavily influenced by teachers in South China Normal University: Mr.Shi Lei puts his passion for painting, sensitivity towards social experience, expressive concepts as well as personal visual experience into class teaching; Mr.Yang Guoxin combines the mixed features of installation, images and non-painting elements with traditional teaching mode; Mr.Fang Shaohua encourages the students to express themselves boldly; Mr.Duan Jianyu always surprises us with creative thoughts and a broad vision; Mr.Lu Shun shows me lots of concern and encouragement; Mr.Wei Qingji emphasizes the free expression of contemporary art and Mr.Mao Jianxiong asks us to give an emphasis to open-mindedness. They keep imparting us knowledge in and out of class, showing us the power of fine examples that are themselves experiencing and participating in the development of contemporary art.
Gallery: Do you see any significance change in your artistic creation from the very beginning till now? What factors have influenced your artistic style and subject matters?
Wang Min: Yes, if in the previous years I’ve been sowing seeds in the land of infinity, now I’m more interested in finding changes in the finitude with a more serious pursuit towards individuality, exactness and integrity of the works. I must owe this change in style to the guidance of Mr.Shi Lei who taught me the course of the Study of Sketch Art in the first year of my postgraduate program. At that time I had no idea how to paint, and then Mr.Shi Lei picked one painting from a collection of my undergraduate works and encouraged me to develop on it. When I came to a refined version, he again asks me to dig deeper into the work. It’s fair to say that the encouragement and guidance from Mr.Shi Lei drives me further on the way of artistic creation. I can’t thank him more.
Gallery: Which master of contemporary art is your favorite? Why?
Wang Min: It feels good to have a look at master works when you get confused. There’re many great artists that I like, including Magritte for his unique sophistication, David Hockney for his ease and casualness, Katz for the embrace of simplification and sincerity; Arikha and Tuymans for their subtle visual conception of the zenist thinking “Less is More”, Close for his rational design that bridges the figurative and the abstract, Helnwein for the mental depiction in his works, as well as traditional Chinese painting especially from Song Dynasty that maintains the trinity of subtlety, exquisiteness and mystery. Apart from the above-mentioned, I must acknowledge the impact of academic traditions, because a fine painting of the statue of David lies far beyond the reach of technical aspects, and actually the discrepancy among different artistic languages is exaggerated by the theorists.
Gallery: About the female images in your works, where do they come from?
Wang Min: Nowadays, females tend to favor a standard look with the magic of plastic surgery, but I’m more interested in the mutation of their facial appearance. I don’t know why, but maybe the inspiration comes from certain images I saw on TV or cartoon books back in my childhood, like monsters or people suffering from great illness or just merely people disguising as aliens that aroused wild imagination.
Gallery: In your art series of V.that features a silk grey tone ,what emotions do you try to get across and how do they come into being?
Wang Min: If you look around to see all the technological stuff that mostly employs the tone of silk grey, you will feel nothing classical or warm-hearted. The collection is named after artist Thomas Pynchon’s work of the same name, which themes on the alienation and morbidness of human beings. Likewise, I very much incline to stage the mutated aesthetics through the biological mutation, depicting the materialized life of modern men that is void and cold.
Gallery: Your work Turn Left, Turn Right is of the same name as Jimmy’s cartoon. Do they relate to each other in aspect of expressing content? What does it try to express?
Wang Min: I finished the painting in the sophomore year. It was the first work of mine based on my own image. I did see Jimmy’s cartoon at that time, but my work is more about emotions and feelings at that moment-confusion in an time of exploration.
Gallery: Lately, the conceptuality of contemporary art is placed up the altar. How do you understand this conceptuality?
Wang Min: I’ve been doubtful about it. Though admittedly, every work is tinted with some kind of concept. Yet it’s like the word“concept”had kidnapped artist’s original thoughts and led art towards endless interpretation. I believe a real concept should be a subversive way of thinking or a specific way of doing, being at the same time self-explanatory, direct and efficient.
Gallery: Nowadays, many artists convey their concepts through various mediums. Have you attempted any other medium except for oil painting?
Wang Min: I sure do. I like exploring different mediums. Back at college, I’ve tried with mixed media, copperplate, screen painting plates, lacquer painting, sculpture and installations. I value the chances to create with different mediums which in turn have a subtle influence on my works.
Gallery: Do you see any gender difference in artist creation?
Wang Min: I don’t think there is any significant difference. Many might attach the attributes of sensitivity, fashion and refinement to female artists, but I should say a considerable amount of male artists have these qualities, too. Of course, compared with their counterparts who generally show a broad vision, female artists are more interested in self-perception both eternally(this is why softwares like Mei Tu Xiu Xiu focused on female users)and internally. I found few of my works featured male images after a time of creation, probably due to my own gender identity. Even occasionally I deliberately approach a work with female perspective, I don’t deem myself a feminist.
Gallery: What do you think about the purity of art?
Wang Min: I myself feel the word is quite ambivalent. Purity can be the in-depth exploration and study of a narrowed range of topics, like Morandi and Floyd who focused on a single painting material for their entire lives, while I do think an artist should keep their eyes wide-open within the range without narrow-mindedness. Actually, many purified thoughts in 20th century are problematic, bringing penetrating ideas while it being superficial and insensitive. Thus an artist must know how to balance purification and boundary-crossings.
Gallery: Who are your target audience that can understand your works? What kinds of works do you think can be most touching?
Wang Min: I won’t presuppose a certain group audience. The key is for them to see and see into the works, whether or not there can generate real understanding. As to the most touching works, I have not a clue to what is on everybody’s mind.
Gallery: How does art effect someone’s life? What impacts does it have on people?
Wang Min: Oftentimes, I see the intensified materialization and normalization of human behavior, though the society is getting more complicated. But I believe fine art can guide people out of fixed way of seeing, thinking and doing to some extent, even just for a moment. Things are just the same to the artists. Though our cultural habits might have come from traditions, the modern era or ourselves, we’re like living in the depth of a labyrinth, not knowing where we are. Only by a clear self-recognition and a break from fixed norms can we be truly alive.