The Irrelevant: on Wang Qingli’s Painting
Source:Artintern Author:Ji Shaofeng Date: 2014-07-03 Size:
​It is plain that Wang Qingli’s painting is idiosyncratic and intensely expression-isti...

Wang Qingli’s painting

It is plain that Wang Qingli’s painting is idiosyncratic and intensely expression-istic. Her brushwork is ebullient, figural distortion is exaggerative, colors are exciting, fancy is highly improvisational, and ardor is romantic yet vibrant. Equally plain is the anxiety and struggle to break the fetters and dominance on her mentality, which we will realize once we notice how frenetic, primitive and sensual the touches of her painting are. She believes that the act of painting is a direct medium into a “real” reality, while the inner strength makes for an outlet, of pragmatic conducts, hegemonic power and capital and intricate interpersonal issues, to the remounting of the authentic being of the self who has been repressed and suppressed.

If look at the history of her visual expressions, you will find that her visual, narra-tive logic has a set of inputs connected with her academic education, professional training and broad social relations. At the same time, in her telling of the cultural phe-nomenon in urbanization and consumption and also her distinct visual experience, you will find how lifestyle and art manner change along the transitioning of the society. Her visual narrative gives a freaky, bizarre and incoherent sense, however, it is in the in-dulgence, isolation, boredom, passion and dreamlike delusions that one grasps her steadfast inner authenticity. Although seemingly irrelevant, the true inner self is there, defying the rules, deserting the system, rebelling against the power and developing a free lifestyle of her own. Indeed, the desire to live freely matters significantly for every-one.

Wang Qingli’s visual expression lends support to the idea that Sigmund Freud held, that is, the art creation is a get-back to “the gratification of instincts which had to be given up in real life.” Her instinct is obvious in the unusual yet delicate forms what manifest her discontented and restless challenge against conventions and authorities; her trust in her own instinct, her management of her own life, and even challenge to herself for transcending herself. This is why Wang Qingli can maintain her independence, something that appears to has no place in the present; why she is able to live and make art on her own understanding and accord; and also why she is able to, freely as well as passionately, bring into painting what she genuinely thinks about the social reality and artistic life. To a large extent, she has paved her own way to get to her spiritual self-realization in between the others and the self whom seemingly irrelevant; as well as in the return of the other, whom seemingly relevant with them, to the self.

Neither totally repudiating the traditional art nor radically challenging against the contemporary, the artist walks a fine line between them, intelligently fusing her own value judgment and cultural identity into the enthusiastic cultural pursuit in between the de-tradition and re-tradition. Examples are the Sex and the City and the New Classics for Girls, in which grand narrative is nowhere to be found, since the artist has no will to excite the viewers, and, since her art goal is just as Sigmund Freud defines:

“The realm of imagination was evidently a ‘sanctuary’ made during the painful transition from the pleasure principle to the reality principle in order to provide a substitute for the gratification of instincts which had to be given up in real life. The artist, like the neurotic, had withdrawn from an unsatisfying reality into this world of imagination; but, unlike the neurotic, he knew how to find a way back from it and once more to get a firm foothold in reality. His creations, works of art, were the imaginary gratification of unconscious wishes, just as dreams are; and like them they were in the nature of compromises, since they too were forced to avoid any open conflict with the forces of repression.” ( Sigmund Freud, The Art Essays of Sigmund Freud; trans. by Zhang Huangmin & Chen Weiqi. Knowledge Publishing House, 1987; p.10)

It thus becomes clear that what hides behind her visual narrative is body (its social meaning) as well as identity which she lays accents on. It is the body and the identity that embody her narrative, her cultural strategy and also evince the depth of her reflection. How her way of thinking and her strategy of repartee are intelligent can also be perceived from the fact that her work is already recognized and included into the production and dissemination of the contemporary art knowledges.

Wang Qingli sticks to “body” in her narrative, which could be examined in two perspectives: the cultural body and the trace of body. The contemporary art, as is known to all, is in a sense a stockaded camp exclusively managed by artists, historians, critics, curators, galleries, foundations, auction houses, gallery directors, museum directors, collectors, editors-in-chief, and so on; and only after gaining access into this camp can art come to be present. On condition that the presence of body is culturally constructed, the “return to (instinct of) body” is no doubt a revolt in the eyes of those who have dominated the construction. In addition to those above-mentioned who are directly from the art field, there are other factors also involved in this construction, including, political power and capital and their collusion, cultural hegemony, vanity fair and the rivalry for prominence, interpersonal intricacy and sophistication, and so on. All these are what the artist resists with aid of “body.” Rather than being sermonic, the artist presents, breezily and playfully, a miscellany of farcical, bizarre moments in everyday life; thereby, she reacts against the intense oppression exerted by the overwhelming power and deviates from the perplexity as well as un-predicability of relations. At the same time, she uses artistic body as a means to confront the artistic institutionalization. Body’s trace suggests a spirit of anarchy. The raw, primitive and natural body is anarchic - therefore, rebellious - is just because of the systematization, or in other words, social normalization of attitudes towards body. By using the body over and over again, the artist tries to escape from the institutionalization, to break through the stockade of academics; to show contempt for social shibboleths and aesthetic conventions and rules; and to stage an insurrection against the social infringement and repression. In like manner, she is aware of the female identity, because it is a production of the rules of patriarchy, and a production in which female selfhood is deprived of its authenticity and tranquility what she tries to completely retrieve. Her art practice reminds of what Beuys asserts: “Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline.” Under such depression, an individual is not allowed to develop themselves freely and naturally. In this view, we can clearly grasp the ambition of the artist, that is, to find a flight out of such a reality. She was chasing in this sort of reality after a sort of temperateness and truth, but not any more; instead, she discloses truly her own mindset, as she finds it more powerful to do so. Thus, in her fantastic, romantic and also enthusiastic visual narratives we see the freedom and authenticity what originate in her own mind and also what she aspires to return back to - from, as can be felt in her paintings, scrutable but indescribable anxieties. There echoes the call of the soul and, moreover, and more prominently, the freedom of her aspiration and obsession.

Besides those in stance and attitude towards society and art, the viewer can also grasp the changes she made in visual approaches. In the Sex and the City and the New Classics for Girls, the artist highlights the personal perception on the subject matters of urban, consumption and desires that are often viewed merely as a social issue and therefore external of individuality. This personal perception is quite veritable is largely due to her individualistic, unique visual language and contemporary visual experience. While changing from the external to the internal, she, inevitably, changes her perspectives into the society. The New Classics for Girls series evidences a transitioning process from conserving national traditions, to integrating into the globalization and, finally, to pursing an alternative, Chinese way and Chinese mode of modernity, although which seem to be not completely convincing and even excruciating. At the same time, for her, it also necessitates exploiting the visual experience of her own as well as the visual environment in reality to produce a new form which, therefore, can be both personally individualized as well as local characterized. In this formalization, the artist’s irreplaceable personal experience is inevitably involved. Although apparently conform with the rules of painting, although the state of loss and woe cannot be laid bare but deliberately disguised in its presence, the artist indeed stages a resistance against the dominant patriarchic rules and powers, and an endeavor to retrieve the lost confidence and self. Moreover, in the visible form-to-content changes in subject matters and formations there is a grander dimension in terms of society, history and culture, that is, the agrarian society or even the industrial society is now in its transition towards post-modern society, or say, post-industrial society; or in other words, the problems of postmodernism have already begun occurring. The matters in the New Classics for Girls are those at very the beginning.

The figures in her visual world are often passionate and profligate, but it is not necessary to equate the artist herself with them. On the very contrary, she is low-profiled, implicit and not ostentatious at all; at the same time, she also has a warm personality, and personal care. With all these personalities, and also her devotion in art, several other female artists have been attracted by her and they, together, formed an art group who has a strength as well as a charm unique to female’s visual experience. In their distinct visual world, the viewers could clearly see what their perspectives, lifestyles, communicative and artistic manners are like.

It should be also admitted that, the pictorial manner allows for a true expression of the reality - where the artist shows us her outstanding skills - but the reality doesn’t, at least, it is not as easy as in painting.

We wish Wang Qingli best, her only mistake being her excessive perfection.

June 16, 22:30, 2014

Sanguandian, East Lake

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[Editor] 孙雯