Wisdom in Essence: Wang Qingli’s Painting
Source:Artintern Author:Xia Zi Date: 2014-07-03 Size:
Wang Qingli has been testing and piloting every possibility for achieving her most ideal way of narrative...

Wang Qingli's work

The oil painter Wang Qingli never deviated from her course.

The commitment is derived from deep mind, since, painting, as she puts it herself, is a “mindful road.” She moves along the road and never stops; occasionally and only, she takes a perch at the serpentine roads or the disturbing intersections. These short pauses often help her come up with a better idea for the next move. She has every nature she grasped on journey painted onto canvas with delicate strokes and details. The Irrelevant: An Art Exhibition of Wang Qingli is the replay of these passages, where we would hear the whisper saying “Keep in wind wisdom in essence, not to forget,” since only so can the mindful road be extended on and on.

Thanks to professional training, Wang Qingli has gained excellent formation and coloration skills which allow her to easily “wander“ in a bold manner. The skill in color as well as her emphasis on it, are very obvious in her paintings of both the early stage, for example, Woman and Horse, Red Lips; and the later stage, for example, Classics for Girls, and If A Man Answers series. The color in the Woman and Horse series has faded a lot over many years, due to the poor quality of pigments and storage condition; nevertheless, the delicate contrasts between different color temperatures, complements and shadings still remain the “vigorous soul” the artist injected to painting strikingly, and vivaciously alive. In the Chinese Girls and Classics for Girls series, characterized by blocks that seem colliding and fusing from each other, the trendy girls look earnest and enthusiastic, but not affected at all. No doubt, the artist’s talent in the language of colors is unique. The rules of perspective, composition and proportion have never curbed her, since, in an off-the-cuff manner, she follows her own emotions as well as her keen understanding of the world. All together, between consciousness and unconsciousness, her painting comes alive with the moods, heartily and freshly.

The scenes in her paintings project the reality of her everyday life and also the places she has visited during “sleepwalking.” Detecting her artistic footsteps will also lead to a sight into her mind journey that has been crossing through the simultaneous forces of history, culture, society and ideologies in the transition. Her trip in the heart area of Tibet and her becoming a mother bear a catharsis in her mind and also two oil paintings: Woman and Horse and The Mother Lake; the first is an impressive visual expression of the primitive desire, and the second feels the tender maternity in depth of the image. In 1990s, she was attracted by the “pop culture” and painted the Red Lips. However, the artist was somehow circumspect at that time, and you can sense it in this painting where the artist seemingly tried biting back some words that have sprang to her lips; in 2000s, the expression became much more daring, just as in Sex and the City that themed with “urban culture.” Without any reservation, these paintings unzipped the “delusions” out of a spiritual world which has been swamped by the disturbances in urbanization. Then she brought about the New Classics for Girls and Classics for Girls, two paintings created in a reversed - from “new” to “old” - temporal linearity. The reverse is pretty suggestive: the ethos difference in different times doesn’t necessarily veto the acceptance in modern urban life of the moral disciplines in the ancient, just as in “Classics for Girls.” There is no reason for new women to destain “cooking seasoned flour mush” and “giving filial piety to husband’s parents” as old women had done. However, it doesn’t mean that the artist purports to regress into the old times. Rather, as shown in the contrasts between the new and the old, between historical differences, and also in the correlations between successive epochs, in all that she made visible in her paintings, what she does is reinterpreting traditional ethnics in the perspective of contemporary culture and undertaking a self-examination on her social identity as a woman. The gender issue is indeed what themed her later paintings. In the If A Man Answers, the audience are invited by the artist, in seemingly so obstinate a manner, into a delusive space in which a variety of contradictions occur: husband and wife play each other’s gender role in a ridiculous way and, therefore, spawn intimations and temptations that are numerous yet diversified. The audience cannot escape but lapse into a place which is so evocative and bewildering, as it is full of both realities and delusions.

Wang Qingli is a founding member of Seven Beats, a female artists’ group. She has been putting great effort in bringing the group into various exhibitions since its beginning; years later, the group has finally started receiving attention as well as recognition from major museums and other art establishments. Due to such activities, she is often placed under the category of feminist. The understanding of this term, however, should be rooted in Chinese background. On the one hand, because of heavy influences of the cultural traditions, Chinese female artists’ attention is often more concentrated on the art itself, instead of women’s power; on the other, the social construction and reinforcement of gender differences never come to an end, and, resultantly, the female artists cannot be completely rid of the “gender” embarrassment. In this inescapable reality, the strategy and wisdom are in need to better deliver messages. Wang Qingli have both of them. Her expressionistic style is as resolute and bold as always, but this doesn’t mean she would view as feministic characters as taboo; in fact, she does the very contrary. In the Classics for Girls, what she based on the eponymous old doctrine conducts women’s behaviors, the artist simply translates the invisible disciplines that conditioning Chinese women in a patriarchal society into “illustrations and attendant texts,” where the advices, for example, “Make sure you diligently wash and clean yourself” and “Don’t bear malice to unpleasant words from your husband’s parents,” are all illustrated with two versions: ancient and modern. On a par with each other, the two versions generate collaboratively a prominent sense of epochal difference, and also expose to us the deconstruction and transmutation happening when the traditional ideologies pass through the present social reality. No doubt, this is a part of the artist’ own life, where she has realized the structural imbalances in discourse power and witnessed the flooding of desires and temptations. How can one keep to themselves and self-examine themselves? It is the seeking of the answer to this question that shapes her paintings come after.

The If A Man Answers series is the witness. There, the trendy and shining woman shows up again, but in a “non-quotidian” situation in quotidian life, or, in other words, a tableau the artist composed with a sense both familiar and unfamiliar: when the girl in high heels is shopping joyously in the wonderland of luxury goods, she is followed by a plain-dressed and numb-looked migrant worker from countryside; at noon, in the pink living room with a large flower carpet, the hostess swaps her role with Allen Jones’s sculpture, who vice verse to her - on the glass tea table is the hostess’s laptop and readings, and, under the table is laying the man who looks eager to gain his own readings; high in the sky, the white clouds hold up the man and the man holds up the woman - will she, entirely in heady flight and soar, thus be able to curb the man under her body? Whatever the answer to it maybe, the visual expression of this series is, seemingly all of a sudden, much more “aggressive” than ever; however, the audience do not have to be “cautious” at all, since this “aggressiveness” looks so beautiful in a delusory state the artist depicted in so exquisite, purely aesthetic a manner. Also, it is not a necessity to label these paintings as “feminism” art, which is overly convenient, slightly bigoted, but also easy to mislead audience’s perception. Rather, I would like to understand it as a “strategic humor” by making up the aspiration of role swapping between different social genders and hinting at an erotic temptation; with this humor, the artist roasts the structural imbalance of discourse power between them, and also the spiritual world which is now being flooded with desires. What is for sure is that Wang Qingli has no interest in raising high a feminist banner, crying out for mutual antagonism between two genders, but rather, by appropriating the games circulating in a consumer society, she pursues a free, harmonious and dreamlike relationship. This dream originates from the farsighted and openminded social cognition of a contemporary artist and, at the same time, mirrors the decency and loveliness of a woman.

Wang Qingli has been testing and piloting every possibility for achieving her most ideal way of narrative. The reality and falsehood are seemingly mingled together and become discernible. It may be because of her difficulty in extricating herself from this entanglement, the indulgence in colors becomes a strategic path for her to find an outlet. Therefore, on the mindful road which the artist never turns off we see simultaneously the hesitation, exploration, disorientation, harvest…

Come what may, the most important around her is the wisdom in essence what she never forgets.

June 2014, Hubei Museum of Art

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[Editor] 孙雯