A Subtle Game-Wang Ai's Painting Narrative
Source:Artron Author:Song Lin Date: 2008-05-17 Size:
Wang Ai's series of "Painting Narratives" are somewhat like screens made of texts, which remind me of the prestigious ancient epigraph.

 

Wang Ai's series of "Painting Narratives" are somewhat like screens made of texts, which remind me of the prestigious ancient epigraph. "Painting Narrative" is the painter-as-poet artist's accurate nomenclature of his practices since returning to the paintbrush. It doesn't merely use text as ornamental element (for instance, the parodic copying of ancient classics such as the Heart Sutra), nor does it aim at inventing a new type of legible modern calligraphy. It's rather an obscure manuscript consists of murky visual metaphor, in which the narrative structure is deliberately weakened, isolated or shielded by the visually-dominant Chinese characters.

Ambiguity is the underlying tone of this kind of "painting-as-writing", because the experience offered by the text-based elements on the canvas is never similar to the experience of reading. Here, the painstaking repetition of mingled symbolic characters and materials manages to achieve almost mechanical precision and delicacy. Confronting such works, it is only natural for the viewer to ask: is there a limit to the arbitrariness with which the text is reinvented in the painting? Is it possible to effectively play with the abstract quality of textual pattern merely through intuition?

It would not be a far stretch to state that Wang's Painting Narrative series is a subtle game, one that restores post-modern "graffiti of the mind" into a kind of history- and religion-conscious meta-painting / writing. The obvious tension derives from the drastic difference of topics. Confusingly, however, there is striking formal resemblance between these paintings. When Chinese characters are no longer written as ideograms, they become "written / painted" image as a whole. As an unexpected result of that, the abnormal worship of "text / picture" is subverted. On the other hand, these works unsettlingly hint at the absence of historical writing in contemporary China. It is in such uncertainty that Wang Ai's interim exploration manifests itself.

[Editor] Mark Lee

    Artintern